DKAHA: US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Bangladesh Monday for talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on tackling local Islamist extremists following a wave of deadly attacks.
Kerry is also expected to meet with civic and opposition leaders during the one-day visit, his first to the Muslim-majority nation reeling from an attack on a cafe that killed 22 people, mostly foreigners.
Just hours before Kerry's arrival, Bangladesh police shot dead two suspected members of the local Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) extremist group blamed for last month's cafe siege.
The suspected militants, including a regional JMB commander, were killed during a gunbattle with security officers in the northern town of Sherpur town, a police spokesman said.
"They were declared dead after being brought to a local hospital," spokesman Gaziur Rahman told AFP.
The United States and Bangladesh have a "longstanding partnership" with "programmes in place for many, many years that deal with counter-terrorism and security partnership," a senior US State Department official said ahead of Kerry's arrival.
Talks between the two countries have intensified in recent months, the official said, with the US engaging with Bangladesh police and the military charged with tackling extremists.
Kerry's visit comes two days after Bangladesh police shot dead the suspected mastermind of the cafe attack during a gunbattle outside Dhaka. Police named the suspect as JMB leader Tamim Chowdhury.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the July 1 attack on the upmarket Dhaka cafe in which gunmen held hostage mainly Western diners including one American, before killing them.
Hasina's government denies the IS group has a presence in Bangladesh, instead blaming the JMB and other local militant groups for the bloodshed.
A series of police raids on suspected militant hideouts have killed at least 26 extremists since the cafe attack.
Bangladesh has been reeling from a series of attacks in the last three years, including on foreigners, rights activists and members of religious minorities.
Critics say Hasina's administration has been in denial about the nature of the threat posed by extremists and accuse her of trying to exploit the attacks to demonise her domestic opponents.