SYLHET, Bangladesh, Mar 1: The wife of a top fugitive Islamist leader was among nine people detained today by Bangladeshi security forces from a house in a northeastern town where the man is also believed to be hiding, security officials and witnesses said.
They said those detained included Ayesha, the wife of Shayek Abdur Rahman, and their two sons. The identity of others could not be immediately confirmed, an officer of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) elite force told reporters on the scene.
Ayesha told the RAB her husband was inside the two-storey building with two others.
Officials said they were now convinced Shayek Rahman, supreme leader of outlawed Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, was living in the house with his family.
''We hope to get him soon,'' one officer said. ''But let us wait until he is actually captured.'' Some 500 members of the elite force had surrounded the house in an overnight siege.
Shayek's detained family members told security officials the besieged house had a stockpile of bombs, bomb-making materials and weapons.
''We have our target (Shayek) here and we will do everything possible to make him surrender,'' a RAB officer told Reuters by telephone.
Shayek's group and another outlawed radical Islamist organisation, the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, have been blamed for a wave of bombings in the impoverished nation that have killed 30 people and wounded 150 since August.
The crackdown came a day after a district court sentenced 21 activists of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen to death for their role in nationwide serial bombings last August 17.
The death penalties were the first to be handed down for the attacks, when nearly 500 bombs went off simultaneously.
Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh are fighting to impose Islamic sharia law on Bangladesh, a mainly Muslim democracy.
Witnesses at the house in Sylhet, some 400 km from Dhaka, said that police had made repeated announcements over a loudspeaker, urging the militants to surrender.
But one man hiding inside the house shouted: ''Go back, officers. We won't give up until we establish the rule of Allah.'' Journalists gathered on the street outside were asked to leave as commandos wearing bullet-proof jackets and helmets moved closer to the building.