Reuters International

By Ruma Paul

DHAKA (Reuters) - A suspected Islamist militant was killed on Saturday in a shootout in Bangladesh, police said, days after he critically wounded a Hindu college teacher in the latest attack on minority groups.

Ghulam Faijullaha Fahim, 19, who was in police custody, was shot when officers took him with them to help capture his associates, said Sarwar Hossain, police chief of Madaripur, 70 km (44 miles) south of the capital, Dhaka.

"He was caught in crossfire that erupted after miscreants started shooting at the police," he said, adding that Fahim was dead on arrival at a hospital.

Mathematics teacher Ripon Chakraborty was attacked on Wednesday by Fahim and two other knife-wielding assailants when he answered the doorbell at his home in Madaripur.

Fahim was caught by people who rushed to the rescue of the screaming teacher and his family, and was handed over to the police. He told them the attack had been planned by members of the banned militant group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Militants have killed more than 30 people since early last year, ranging from atheist bloggers and liberal academics to gay rights campaigners, foreign aid workers, members of minority Muslim sects and other religious groups.

The Islamic State or al Qaeda groups have claimed responsibility for most of the killings, but the government denies that either has a presence in Bangladesh, a majority Muslim country of 160 million.

Police blame home-grown militants from groups such as Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and Ansarullah Bangla Team.

At least 11 suspected militants have been killed in shootouts since November, including five earlier this month, as the authorities step up a hunt for Islamists to stop a wave of deadly attacks.

More than 100,000 Islamic scholars and clerics on Saturday issued a fatwa against militancy in the name of Islam.

On Saturday, police recovered a large cache of firearms, including 108 pistols and 1,000 bullets, from a canal on the outskirts of Dhaka.

More than 11,000 people, including about 200 suspected militants, have been arrested in a week-long crackdown on Islamists that ended on Friday.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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