DHAKA: Bangladesh on Tuesday arrested a pilot from the national airline accused of plotting with Islamist militants to hijack or crash a plane in a spectacular attack, police said.
Sabbir Emam, a pilot with state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines, was detained in Dhaka with three others suspected of links to a militant group blamed for a cafe siege last year that left 22 people dead, including 18 foreigners.
The Rapid Action Battalion police unit said Sabbir plotted with senior extremists from Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh to crash a plane into the homes of politicians or to take passengers hostage.
“He is a dangerous person and is working at a sensitive place like Bangladesh Biman, which the country’s important individuals use,” the battalion said in a statement.
Sabbir, a pilot since 2014, flew a Boeing 737 passenger jet as recently as Monday for Bangladesh’s flag carrier, the battalion said.
Neither Sabbir’s family or lawyers could be immediately reached for comment.
Sabbir allegedly had ties to senior militants including Sarwar Jahan, the head of a new JMB faction, before he was killed in a police raid.
Police say Sabbir and Sarwar plotted a plane attack with another man, Abdullah, who was killed in a raid in September along with six others, including his wife and children, in an apartment building in Dhaka.
The building was owned by Sabbir’s father, who was questioned by police.
The homegrown JMB group has been blamed for a string of deadly attacks on foreigners, atheist bloggers, rights activists and religious minorities in Bangladesh.
The most prominent was in July last year when militants stormed an upmarket cafe in Dhaka and massacred 22 hostages. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group but the government denied any role by the international militants.
JMB remains active despite efforts to decapitate its leadership by Bangladesh police, who have while killed more than 70 alleged militants since the cafe attack.
Police have warned of new cells and plots to stage attacks in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation of 160 million.—AFP