IT chief at Bangladesh Coca-Cola unit arrested as Islamic State suspect

By Ruma Paul and Serajul Quadir DHAKA (Reuters) - An IT manager at a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Co was one of two men arrested in Bangladesh on suspicion of planning to fight for Islamic State in Syria, police and company sources said on Monday. The pair were detained during a raid in the capital, Dhaka, on Sunday night, said Sheikh Nazmul Alam, a senior official of the police detective branch. One man, Aminul Islam, was the information technology head of a multinational company, and worked as a regional coordinator for Islamic State, while the other, Sakib Bin Kamal, was a teacher at a school in Dhaka, he added. A police official and a company source told Reuters that Islam worked at International Beverages Private Ltd, a Coca-Cola unit. The company source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, confirmed the arrested man was the head of IT, and said he had been absent from work for several days. In a statement, the subsidiary said it was aware of media reports that the employee, whom it named as Aminul Islam Baig, had been arrested. "We will fully cooperate with the law enforcement agencies as required," it said. "We can confirm Mr. Md Aminul Islam Baig is an employee of IBPL," a Coca-Cola spokesman said by email. "We are cooperating fully ... with the law enforcement agencies on this matter." Alam said the suspects had confessed to having persuaded at least 25 students to join Islamic State, the militant group that has captured swathes of Syria and Iraq. At least 12 people have been arrested in Bangladesh in recent months for suspected involvement with Islamic State, and reports of its growing influence have raised fears across South Asia. It remains unclear whether militants organising under its name are acting on their own or as part of a centralised initiative from the Middle East. Bangladesh, whose population is around 90 percent Muslim, is already on alert. Three secular bloggers including a U.S. citizen, Avijit Roy, have been killed by radical Islamists since February. In a separate development on Monday, the Interior Ministry banned Ansarullah Bangla Team, a group that has claimed responsibility for the killings, as an extremist militant organisation. (Additional reporting by Lauren LaCapra in New York; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Peter Cooney)