Dhaka, Aug 5 (IANS) Bangladesh sleuths have zeroed in on five persons who hacked to death two prominent gay rights activists in April this year and are set to arrest them, media reports said on Friday.
Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were killed in a machete attack by a gang of assailants in Dhaka’s Kalabagan on April 25.
The police got leads on the murders after the arrest of Shariful Islam Shihab, a member of the banned Islamic group — Ansarullah Bangla Team — from Kushtia, an official said.
“Shihab supplied weapons to the killers. We got some important information after he was remanded twice in custody. He is now in prison,” bdnews24 quoted an official as saying.
Xulhaz, 35, was a USAID official and also editor of Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine Roopbaan.
Xulhaz was also a cousin of former Foreign Minister and ruling Awami League Joint General Secretary Dipu Moni.
He studied international relations at the Dhaka University and joined the US embassy in 2007 before taking up what would turn out to be his last assignment at USAID.
Tonoy, 26, was involved with the theatre group Lok Natyadal. He worked as a drama trainer for children at an organisation going by the name of PTA.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the killings.
The two were murdered for being “pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh,” tweeted Mufti Abdullah Ashraf, spokesperson for Ansar Al Islam, AQIS’s chapter in Bangladesh.
The anti-terror unit of the police arrested Shihab from Kushtia 19 days after the attack. He had been “hiding there” after the “killings” in Dhaka
“Police have gathered information on the killers after arresting and interrogating members of Ansar Al Islam on various occasions. Then they identified the killers of Xulhaz and Tonoy,” a police official said.
“The killers are in the country. The effort to arrest them is ongoing,” the police official added, bdnews24 reported.
For nearly two years, machete-wielding assailants in Bangladesh have killed secular bloggers, authors, publishers, teachers and religious minorities in the country.
Responsibility for most of the murders was claimed by the AQIS or the Islamic State terrorist group.