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Sister of Bangladeshi student accused of Melbourne stabbing arrested in Dhaka

Bangladeshi policemen patrol in Dhaka after an attack by the New Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militant group on a bakery in 2016.
Bangladeshi policemen patrol in Dhaka after an attack by the New Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militant group on a bakery in 2016. Photograph: A.M. Ahad/AP

The sister of a Bangladeshi student accused of stabbing a man in an alleged terrorist attack in Melbourne has been arrested in Bangladesh’s capital after police said she attacked officers with a knife.

A senior officer from the Dhaka metropolitan police said Asmaul Husna, 22, had been detained on Sunday after lashing out at police with knife when they arrived at her home to question her.

Police had gone to her home in Dhaka seeking information about an alleged stabbing perpetrated by her sister, Momena Shoma, in the north-east Melbourne suburb of Mill Park on Friday.

“When our officials were talking to Husna, she suddenly started chanting some jihadi slogans and attacked one of our police officers with a knife,” Mohibul Islam Khan, deputy commissioner of police with the counterterrorism unit, told the Guardian.

He said Husna had admitted to being a member of New Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the militant group that carried out a deadly assault on the Holey Artisan bakery in Dhaka in July 2016. More than 20 people were killed in the attack claimed by Islamic State.

“During our interrogation we will try to find out how Husna has been involved in jihadi activities,” Khan said.

Shoma, 24, is accused of stabbing a nurse, Roger Singaravelu, in the neck while he slept in the same room as his five-year-old daughter. Police say the attack was motivated by her support for Isis and have charged Shoma with engaging in a terrorist act. Singaravelu is in a stable condition at the Royal Melbourne hospital.

The Bangladeshi national had arrived to stay at his home the previous day. She entered Australia at the beginning of February to study linguistics at La Trobe University.

Her uncle Mohammed Abdul Aziz said he found it difficult to believe she had any connection with Islamic state or other radical groups.

Police have alleged Shoma was “self-radicalised”. In Dhaka, Khan said Husna had told police she had become attracted to the New JMB’s radical Islamist ideology after watching videos and reading jihadist material online.

The JMB group emerged in Bangladesh in 2004 and has been implicated in several bombings and the murders of atheist bloggers, priests and foreigners. An offshoot, the “New” JMB, has emerged, led by the Canadian national Tamim Chowdhury and made up of young, internet-savvy and upper-middle class recruits.

It claims close links to Isis but Bangladesh’s government insists the relationship between the two groups is tenuous.

Hundreds of accused terrorists were killed or arrested in the crackdown that followed the Holey Artisan bakery attack, allegedly carried out by five members of New JMB.

Though Bangladesh has grown more prosperous in the past two decades the country has also experienced a surge in Islamist violence. In part the increase mirrors a global trend but analysts also point to the growing political clout of hardline Muslim movements.

“A political process has emerged where even the most secular parties are slowly sliding towards organisations like Hefazat-e-Islam and these madrassas,” said Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, a senior fellow at the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

“These people are very politically powerful. From 1975, the interplay of politics and religious has slowly grown in importance in Bangladesh.”

A Bangladeshi national, Akayed Ullah, was charged with terrorism offences after allegedly detonating a homemade bomb strapped to his body in a New York subway tunnel in December. Police in Dhaka say Ullah had no links to domestic militant groups.

Shaikh Azizur Rahman in Kolkata and Mushfique Wadud in Dhaka contributed to this report

This article titled "Sister of Bangladeshi student accused of Melbourne stabbing arrested in Dhaka" was written by Michael Safi, for on Wednesday 14 February 2018 09.11pm

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