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