Bangladeshi police have shot dead one of the masterminds of last year's deadly siege at a cafe that killed 20 people, authorities have said.
The bodies of Nurul Islam Marzan and another man suspected of involvement in other deadly attacks and murders were found after a clash with police carrying out a raid in the capital, Dhaka, on Friday.
"Marzan and his associate Saddam [Hossain] died in an encounter with police," Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Haque told the AFP news agency.
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"He [Marzan] was the operational commander of the July cafe attack. He was one of the masterminds of it."
In the siege at the upmarket Holey Artisan Bakery on July 1 last year 20 foreign hostages were shot or hacked to death.
Police said the second man, Hossain, was wanted in connection with at least 10 attacks on religious minorities, including the murder of Japanese farmer Kunio Hoshi outside the northern city of Rangpur in late 2015.
He was on the run after being charged with the murders of Hoshi, a Christian convert from Islam, a Hindu priest and a sufi leader, all carried out in northern Bangladesh over the past two years.
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The country's security forces launched a deadly crackdown against fighters following the attack. Since the siege, security forces have killed about 50 fighters, including most of the alleged leaders of an armed group known as Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group claimed responsibility for the cafe attack, posting images of the carnage as it happened and photos of the gunmen who had posed with the group's black flag.
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But Mohibul Islam Khan, the deputy chief of Dhaka police's counter-terrorism and transnational crime unit, said Marzan was known to be a member of JMB, joining the group after dropping out of Bangladesh's Chittagong University.
"Along with Tamim [Ahmed Chowdhury], Marzan planned the Gulshan attack," Khan said, referring to the Canadian citizen of Bangladeshi descent who police described as the main mastermind of the siege.
Chowdhury was killed in another raid outside the capital in August last year. Later police also arrested Marzan's wife in a raid in the capital and last month she gave birth to a daughter in custody.
Police intelligence had found that Marzan organised the cafe siege and was its operational commander, said Khan.
Bangladesh is reeling from a wave of attacks on foreigners, rights activists and members of religious minorities.
Source: News agencies