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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 10:09 GMT
'Top Bangladeshi militant' held
Siddiqul Islam, alias Bangla Bhai
Islam had been sentenced to 40 years in prison in absentia
Security officials in Bangladesh say they have arrested a top Islamic militant leader after a gun battle in a northern district.

Siddiqul Islam, alias Bangla Bhai, of the outlawed Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) was captured at his hideout in Mymensingh district, the police said.

Last week, JMB leader Abdur Rahman surrendered to police in north-eastern Sylhet district.

Officials blame the group for a wave of bombings that have left many dead.


Security forces surrounded Islam's hideout in Muktagacha - near Mymensingh town about 110 km (70 miles) north of the national capital, Dhaka - on Sunday at midnight, Mashuk Hasan, an official of Bangladesh's top anti-crime outfit Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) told reporters.

Abdur Rahman in his house before surrendering
JMB leader Rahman was arrested last week

The militants inside the house retaliated by throwing bombs and firing at the security forces and triggered a shootout, he said.

The militants even detonated a bomb inside the house which damaged the roof and injured seven people including RAB agents and Islam, he said.

"During the raid Bangla Bhai detonated an explosive and he was slightly injured, " Mr Hasan told reporters.

Islam, who lost a lot of blood and suffered burn and splinter injuries, was taken to a hospital in Mymensingh and underwent an operation, Dr Abdul Ahad, who treated Islam told the Associated Press news agency.

He was then flown to a paramilitary hospital in Dhaka, but his injuries are not life threatening, an RAB spokesman said.

Courts targeted

The BBC's Roland Buerk says Bangla Bhai came into prominence in 2004 when his group, Jagrata Muslim Janata (Vigilant Muslim Citizens), launched a reign of terror in the north of the country.

Rapid Action Battalion members at the bomb site in Gazipur
The JMB has been blamed for a number of bombings

He and the local authorities allegedly fought the Maoist rebels and imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law - forcing women to wear burqas and men to grow beards.

Recently the government said Islam was the second most important leader in the JMB.

In February, a Bangladeshi court sentenced Islam, Rahman and two others accused of Islamic militancy to 40 years in prison in absentia for a bomb attack that killed two judges last year.

Last August, some 500 bombs were set off in all but one of Bangladesh's 64 districts in the space of an hour. Three people were killed and about 100 injured.

A number of subsequent bomb attacks have targeted judges and court rooms.

More than 100 cases have been filed against alleged members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen in connection with the bombing campaign.

The militant group has been demanding the introduction of Sharia law in the country.

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