By Mainul Islam Khan
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Bangladeshi police said they have arrested more than 3,000 people as part of a crackdown aimed at ending a wave of brutal machete attacks targeting religious minorities and activists.
At least 37 of those arrested on the first day of the week-long operation have been identified as 'militants', according to Deputy Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidur Rahman.
After two years of murders that have recently escalated, the head of police AKM Shahidul Hoque on Thursday ordered a more robust operation after the wife of a senior police officer was killed in the port city Chittagong.
The police officer's wife was one of four victims of fatal machete attacks last week, alongside two Hindu priests and a Christian man.
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Saturday the government would stop the killings, which she pinned on the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, according to the state-owned news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha.
During a party meeting at her official residence, she also said: "It may take time, but inshallah we will be able to bring them under control.”
Local media, citing the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, has reported that responsibility for most attacks has been claimed by either the terrorist Daesh group or al-Qaeda.
SITE reported however that the murder of the police officer's wife was condemned by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, the group's South Asian franchise, as being "impermissible under Islam".
Last month, the Bangladeshi government issued a "red alert" for six suspects for their alleged involvement in the recent murder of bloggers and activists.
Before the seven-day crackdown started, police conducted raids that led to at least nine suspects being killed in shootouts.