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Bangladesh vows justice in killing of two men, including gay activist

26 April 2016, 16:48

New Delhi – The Bangladeshi prime minister has vowed to hunt down and prosecute those who fatally stabbed two men, including a gay rights activist who also worked for the US Agency for International Development, and accused the country's opposition party and allied militants of orchestrating the attack.

The killings on Monday night were the latest in an ongoing wave of attacks claimed by radical Islamists and targeting the country's outspoken atheists, moderates and foreigners. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The victims were identified as USAID employee Xulhaz Mannan, who previously worked as a US Embassy protocol officer, and his friend, theatre actor Tanay Majumder. Mannan was also an editor of Bangladesh's first gay rights magazine, Roopbaan, as well as a cousin of former Foreign Minister Dipu Moni of the governing Awami League party.

US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the "barbaric" murders, issuing a statement from Washington, DC that said the US government would support Bangladeshi efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Police have not made any arrests in their investigation, according to Sub Inspector Shamim Ahmed. He did not say if any suspects had been identified.

Crime scene investigators recovered a mobile phone and bag apparently left by the attackers at the scene, according to Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina blamed religious radicals in Bangladesh, specifically the Jamaat-e-Islami group and their political allies, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

"Everybody knows who are behind these killings," Hasina told top party policymakers in a meeting Monday night after the attacks, which came just days after an English professor was hacked to death on the street of a northwestern city.

"The BNP-Jamaat clique has been involved in such secret and heinous murders to destabilise the country," she said. She added the opposition, which opposes her brand of secular rule, was retaliating against her government for its efforts to prosecute war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence.

The opposition denies the allegations, saying they are being scapegoated for Hasina's failures in maintaining security and placating the country's desire for Islamic rule.

‘Courageous advocate’

The US government and numerous rights groups have lambasted Hasina's government for failing to keep civil society safe. Earlier this month, the US said it was considering granting refuge to a select number of secular bloggers facing imminent danger in Bangladesh.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday that remained an option, while also describing Mannan as a "beloved member of our embassy family and a courageous advocate" for LGBT rights, and pledged US support to Bangladeshi authorities "to ensure that the cowards who did this are held accountable."

The rights group Amnesty International noted that Bangladesh considers homosexual relations a crime, making it harder for gay activists to report any threats against them.

The group's South Asia director, Champa Patel, said the latest attack "underscores the appalling lack of protection being afforded to a range of peaceful activists in the country."

- AP


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