Bangladesh arrests top lawyers for 'funding' militants

DHAKA - Bangladesh has arrested three Supreme Court lawyers for allegedly passing thousands of dollars to a new Islamic militant group in the port city of Chittagong, police said Wednesday.

The three lawyers including a British-trained female barrister were picked up in the capital Dhaka on Tuesday night by Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which is tasked with tackling militancy in the Muslim-majority nation.

"They were arrested for providing funding of 10.8 million taka ($135,000) to a new militant group called Shaheed Hamza Brigade in Chittagong," RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan told AFP.

The little-known group first emerged in April this year when the RAB arrested four alleged militants and seized arms and weapons including modern assault rifles at a hideout in Chittagong.

The RAB this week also detained three suspected Islamist militants over the murder of two prominent atheist bloggers, including a British citizen who police said was the "main planner".

Four secular bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh since the start of the year, sparking an international outcry and protests in the capital.

The government has vowed to hunt down the killers after facing accusations that too little was being done to stop such attacks.