Two Islamist radicals sentenced to die in the murder of a publisher escaped from a Bangladesh court on Sunday after their guards were incapacitated with chemical spray, according to authorities.
The two men were among eight Ansar al Islam members imprisoned last year for the 2015 murder of Faisal Arefin Dipan, who was targeted for publishing the works of a notable atheist writer.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has launched a nationwide manhunt for the escapees and has offered a 2 million taka ($19,500) reward for information leading to their capture.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman K.N. Roy Niyati said the males were 33 and 24 years old and used numerous names.
Ansar al Islam, a local extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), made news last decade after its members were suspected of murdering many secular bloggers, atheist writers, and gay rights campaigners.
Since then, Bangladesh has undertaken a statewide crackdown on Islamist extremists, outlawing a half-dozen organizations, murdering over a hundred militants in raids, and detaining hundreds of suspected extremists.
The Muslim-majority country has not seen a significant terror incident since 2016, when a group of Islamic State-linked fanatics hacked and killed 22 people, virtually all of whom were foreigners, at an upscale Dhaka restaurant.