Dhaka, Bangladesh.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ABIR ABDULLAH

More than 8,000 people, including 119 militant suspects, have been arrested in Bangladesh, part of a police crackdown launched in response to recurring attacks claimed by radical Islamists, officials said on Monday.

Most of the 119 suspected militants belonged to banned Islamist outfits such as Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Ansar Al Islam (also known as Ansarullah Bangla Team) and Allahar Dal, said police officer AKM Shahidur Rahman.

JMB was banned in 2005 after its members attacked public establishments and court buildings, leaving 30 people dead. 

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

The lawmen picked up 2,132 people on Saturday and 2,292 on Sunday, raising the total number of detainees to 8,192 as of Monday, according to the police counts.

Rahman said that allegations by opposition parties accusing police of arresting leaders and activists under the pretence of a crackdown on the militants and criminals are unfounded.

Ruhul Kabir Rizvi Ahmed, a leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), told reporters that police arrested more than 2,000 BNP leaders and activists in the first four days of the crackdown. This nationwide effort will continue until Thursday, said police chief Shahidul Hoque.

On Saturday, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said authorities "will do whatever is needed to stop the secret killings," of religious minorities and atheist in the country.

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