Reuters International

Members of the rapid action police battalion stand outside a house where suspected militants lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh September 10, 2016 in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/via Reuters TV

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By Ruma Paul

DHAKA (Reuters) - A suspected militant believed by Bangladesh police to have been among the planners of a July cafe attack that killed 22 people killed himself during a police raid on a hideout in the capital, police said on Sunday.

The July attack in Dhaka's diplomatic quarter was claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State and was one of the most brazen in Bangladesh, hit by a spate of killings of liberals and members of religious minorities in the past year.

The government has pinned the blame on domestic militant groups, but security experts say the scale and sophistication of the incident suggest links to a trans-national Islamist network.

National police chief Shahidul Hoque said the dead man, Shamshed Hossain, was suspected to be one of the planners of the cafe attack, and to have rented a flat for the militants who carried it out.

"He killed himself inside the flat so that we can’t collect information from him through interrogation," another official, Sanwar Hossain, told reporters on Sunday.

An autopsy report confirmed that the militant committed suicide by slitting his throat, doctors said on Sunday.

Police had earlier said they shot the man during Saturday's raid on the hideout.

Three women who were wounded and arrested in the raid also tried to kill themselves, Hossain added.

Five officers from the police counter-terrorism unit were wounded when women militants attacked them with chili powder, explosives and knives, police have said.

One of the women could have been the wife of a man killed last week in a shootout with police and believed to have trained the cafe attackers, police said.

Police have killed more than two dozen suspected militants in shootouts since the July attack, including its presumed mastermind, Bangladesh-born Canadian citizen Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury.

The United States believes elements of Islamic State are "connected" to operatives in Bangladesh, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to Dhaka last month.

The targeting of foreigners - nine Italians, seven Japanese, an American and an Indian were among those killed - could hurt foreign investment in the poor South Asian economy, whose $28-billion garments export industry is the world's second largest.

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Stephen Powell)

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