DHAKA - Bangladesh police said Thursday they had arrested 12 suspected militants including the local head of Al-Qaeda's branch in the region, foiling an attack planned for the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) also seized explosives and other bomb-making materials during raids on Wednesday on the militants' hideouts in the capital Dhaka, spokesman Major Maksudul Alam said.
"During the raids we arrested 12 militants including Maolana Mainul Islam who is the chief coordinator of AQIS in Bangladesh," RAB's Alam told AFP.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) had been planning an unspecified attack in the Muslim-majority nation after Eid-al Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan, the most senior RAB spokesman, told reporters.
"They've selected a madrassa in (the northern district of) Bogra for training," he said, adding that the group was financed by individuals from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
AQIS has claimed responsibility for the murder of several secular bloggers in Bangladesh this year, including the hacking to death of Bangladeshi-born US citizen Avijit Roy in Dhaka in February.
Last September, Al-Qaeda released a video announcing the establishment of a branch on the Indian subcontinent, AQIS, saying it wanted to revive jihadist activity.
Bangladesh, home to the world's fourth largest Muslim population, has not been hit by a major militant attack since 2006.
Although the country has in recent years witnessed a rise in support for a hardline Islamist political group, experts say there is little appetite for religious extremism in the country. There are also no known cases of Bangladeshis joining the Islamic State group.