Dhaka, Bangladesh.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ABIR ABDULLAH

More than 5,000 people were arrested in Bangladesh after police launched a crackdown on militants in the wake of recurring attacks claimed by radical Islamists, officials said on Sunday.

Eighty-five of them were arrested for their alleged links with banned Islamist organizations while the rest are wanted for various crimes, police spokesman Kamrul Hasan told reporters in Dhaka.

Police launched the week-long clampdown across Bangladesh on Friday after the number of murders of members of religious minorities, secular bloggers, gay rights activists and academics reached around 40 since 2013.

The lawmen picked up 2,132 people on Saturday raising the total number of detainees to 5,324 as of Sunday, according to the police counts.

"The arrests were made as per specific allegations," Inspector General of Police Shahidul Hoque said, adding that 48 suspected militants were captured in raids on Saturday.

A total of 3,192 people were arrested in the first 24 hours of the countrywide operation that started Friday, according to a police headquarters statement.

Thirty-seven were suspected of links with extremist groups, with the others mostly suspects in a range of criminal cases, the report said.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said authorities would put a halt to the killings of religious minorities and atheist campaigners in the country.

She said Saturday the authorities "will do whatever is needed to stop the secret killings," which she blamed on a plot by opposition Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami.

Twenty-seven of the detainees were members of Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, police spokesman Kamrul Ahsan said.

The Islamist outfit was banned in 2005 after carrying out attacks on public establishments and court buildings, killing at least 30 people.

A further seven were members of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, another radical Islamist group, while the other three belonged to little known organizations campaigning for Sharia law in the Muslim-majority South Asian country, Ahsan said.

The nationwide crackdown will continue until Thursday, Inspector Hoque said.

A police officer said that agents had seized a firearm, gunpowder and 15 homemade bombs from the suspected militants.

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