DHAKA: Bangladesh police on Tuesday launched a deadly crackdown on Islamist militants as a 70-year-old Hindu priest became the latest victim in a series of gruesome killings by suspected jihadists. As a government minister tried to portray the recent attacks as part of a conspiracy involving Israel’s Mossad spy agency, security forces waged deadly gunbattles with members of a homegrown jihadist group. Two “high-ranking” members of the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) were shot dead in a battle in Dhaka and another was killed in a northwestern district, police told Agence France-Presse. The two JMB members killed in the capital had roles “in most of the recent attacks” including the bombing of a Shiite mosque and the murder of a liberal professor, said deputy commissioner of police M.R Khaled. The third victim was killed in another gunfight in the town of Godagari in the northwestern district of Rajshahi, said local police chief Abu Forhad. Bangladeshi authorities have been coming under mounting international pressure to end the string of attacks on religious minorities and secular activists that have left more than 40 people dead in the last three years. Authorities have blamed homegrown Islamists for the attacks, which have surged in recent weeks, rejecting claims of responsibility from the Islamic State (IS) group and a South Asia branch of Al-Qaeda.