Bangladesh police on Sunday arrested an Islamic militant from a banned terror group over the hacking to death of the country’s first gay magazine editor and his friend amidst a string of brutal murders of secular bloggers, writers and minorities in the Muslim-majority nation.
Xulhaz Mannan, 35, editor of a magazine for Bangladesh’s gay and lesbian community, and a 25-year-old fellow activist Mahbub Tonoy were hacked to death in an apartment on April 25 by up to seven attackers carrying machetes and guns.
The 37-year-old suspect, Shariful Islam alias Shihab, was arrested from Kushtia early Sunday.
“He is a member of the banned Ansarullah Bangla Team,” Monirul Islam, chief of counter-terrorism unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) told reporters at a press conference.
During initial interrogation, Shihab confessed that he had been a member of another banned Islamist outfit Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami, Bangladesh (Huji) before he joined Ansarullah Bangla Team, Islam said.
The killers were well trained and they had planned the killing two months ago, he said while describing the arrest as a “breakthrough” in the high-profile case.
“They killed the gay rights activists because they were creating confusion about Islam,” Islam said. He was produced before the court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Kaisarul Islam, which placed him on three-day remand this afternoon. Detectives sought a ten-day remand for him.
Police said Shihab owned one of two guns that were used in the twin murders.
Police seized four mobile phone sets, a tab and a USB flash drive from his possession, Islam said. “Shihab has been hiding in Khulna since the killing,” Detective Branch Deputy Commissioner Mashrukur Rahman Khaled.