DHAKA : Two Bangladeshi Islamist militants received cheques from the government on Wednesday in return for pledging to return to normal life, under a new scheme attempting to halt rising extremism.

Police said Abdul Hakim, 22, and Mahmudul Hasan, 17, had been members of banned local  Islamist outfit Jamaayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), blamed for a cafe siege that left 20  mostly foreign hostages dead.

Elite Rapid Action Battalion spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan said the pair had recently reached out to police for assistance as part of a new scheme announced by the national police chief.

"They were involved with the organisational activities of JMB. They issued a plea to us  through their parents to return to a normal life, therefore, we facilitated their return,"Khan told AFP.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan handed the pair cheques each for 500,000 taka ($6,350) to  restart their lives in a ceremony in the northern district of Bogra and broadcast on  television.

A string of attacks by Islamist groups targeting religious minorities, secular and liberal activists as well as foreigners have blighted Bangladesh over the last three years.

The government was left reeling after Islamist militants hacked to death and shot the

hostages in the siege on an upmarket Dhaka cafe in July.

The Islamic State organisation claimed responsibility but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's

secular government blamed the JMB.

Little is known about the two recruits, but Hakim told the ceremony he had chosen "a dark

path when there was no aim in life and he had no wish to live".

"We made a mistake. We don't want anyone else to come to this path," Hakim said.

Three siblings belonging to another banned outfit, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, also surrendered to

police on Monday, authorities have said.

Security analyst Shahab Enam Khan applauded the scheme which comes after the government's

hardline crackdown on opposition activists that has seen thousands arrested and raised allegations of human rights abuses.

"It is good that the government is pursuing a liberal policy rather than only focusing on

hard approaches," Khan, who teaches at Bangladesh's Jahangirnagar University, told AFP.