Prime suspect & instigator of attack on Hindu homes in Bangladesh arrested: Police

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Dhaka, Mar 20 (PTI) Police in Bangladesh on Saturday arrested the alleged prime accused and instigator in connection with the attack on about 80 houses of Hindus by a hardline Islamist group in the country’s northeastern Sylhet division following a social media post reportedly by a youth from the minority community.

Shahidul Islam Swadhin, a Union Parishad member who is also the president of the local ward Jubo League, was arrested by the Police Bureau of Investigation (PIB) from Moulvibazar district, bdnews24.com reported.

“Swadhin is the prime suspect in the attacks at Noagaon village in Shalla Upazila,” Special Superintendent of Police Khaled Uz Zaman of the PBI said, adding that he was held as an “instigator” of the attacks.

A total of 23 people, including Swadhin, have been arrested so far, the police said. The arrests were made following the attack on a Hindu village by several thousand followers of Hefazat-e-Islam’s leader Mamunul Haque in Shalla upazila of Sunamganj district in Sylhet division on Wednesday.

Haque’s supporters gathered in Noagaon village and attacked the homes of local Hindus with sticks and locally made weapons, vandalising 70-80 houses, according to the police.

Many local Hindus fled their homes to save themselves, the report said, adding that the mob entered the village, ransacked and looted many houses.

The incident happened after Hefazat-e-Islam's Amir Allama Junaid Babunagari, Joint-Secretary General Mawlana Mufti Mamunul Haque and several other central leaders attended a conference at Derai upazila on Monday.

Enraged by Haque's speech, a young Hindu man allegedly made a Facebook post criticising him. Following the social media post, the mob attacked the homes of the minority community in the village on Wednesday.

A large number of police personnel rushed to the spot to control the situation.

A senior police officer said that elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was also deployed.

Shalla Upazila Nirbahi Officer Al Muktadir Hossain said in a statement that the accused youth has been arrested and handed over to the law enforcement for insulting Haque on Facebook. Legal action is being taken against him.

“Criminal cases were filed against 700… a manhunt for the attackers is underway,” Sunamganj district police chief Mizanur Rahman told reporters.

Ruling Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader said the government has ordered stern actions to bring the culprits to justice.

“The government is committed to ensure security and peaceful coexistence of people of all religious faiths,” he said.

Meanwhile, rights groups and Hindu leaders said the minority community was targeted in a planned way to drive them away.

Several Hindu organisations like the Bangladesh Hindu Parishad and the National Hindu Grand Alliance staged separate street protests in Dhaka and other places.

“This country belongs to everyone… we want harmony,” Hindu Parishad leader Sajan Kumar Mishra told one of the major rallies in front of the National Press Club.

Hefazat is mainly a grouping of teachers and students of hundreds of non-government madrasas across the country. PTI CPS AKJ CPS