June 16, 2016

More than 11,000 people have been arrested in Bangladesh since June 10, as the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeks to stem a three-year campaign of machete attacks by Islamic extremists on bloggers, religious minorities and foreigners.

SPREADING VIOLENCE

The first killing occurred in early 2013, when a secular-minded blogger was hacked to death in the capital, Dhaka. But soon foreigners and non-Muslim minorities were being targeted, along with members of minority Muslim sects. In April 2016, the country’s most prominent LGBT activist was murdered.

EXTREMIST CULPRITS

Hasina’s government has blamed Islamic extremists from two banned terrorist groups–Ansarullah Bangla Team and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, both of which want to establish a radical version of Shar’ia in the country. Al-Qaeda and ISIS have also claimed attacks, though the government denies their involvement.

DELAYED ACTION

The arrests come after Hasina and her Awami League party were criticized for not doing enough to defend the country’s secular foundations and protect those targeted by the killers, out of fear of alienating conservative Muslim voters. Despite the crackdown, members of Bangladesh’s religious minorities and the country’s secular activists remain fearful for their lives.

–NIKHIL KUMAR

This appears in the June 27, 2016 issue of TIME.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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