April 25, 2016

Killing spree continues in Bangladesh LGBT activist among two hacked to death (25 April 2016)

The Times of India

LGBT activist among two hacked to death in Bangladesh
AFP | Apr 25, 2016, 09.37 PM IST

DHAKA: Two people including a leading gay rights activist were hacked to death on Monday at an apartment in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, police said, the latest in a series of attacks on minorities in the Muslim-majority nation.

"Unidentified attackers entered an apartment at Kalabagan and hacked two people to death. Another person was injured," Dhaka metropolitan police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder told AFP. He did not identify the dead, but gay rights activists confirmed to AFP that one of them was an editor at Roopbaan, the country's only magazine for the LGBT community.

"He was a member of the editorial board of Roopbaan," an advisory member of the magazine told AFP.

The United States ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat condemned the killing, saying one of the victims was a Bangladeshi national working for the US embassy in Dhaka.

"I am devastated by the brutal murder of Xulhaz Mannan and another young Bangladeshi," she said. "We abhor this senseless act of violence and urge the government of Bangladesh in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders," she added.

The Roopbaan editor and some of his friends launched the magazine two years ago and were behind an annual Rainbow Rally which since 2014 has been held on April 14, Bengali New Year. But police this year banned the rally as part of widespread security measures.

Law enforcers arrested and released four LGBT activists earlier this month after they tried to hold the rally. Ahead of the banned event, the Roopbaan editor told AFP that they had received threats from Islamists, who posted messages online.

"They have even set up an online group to threaten us," he said.

The killings come two days after a liberal and free-thinking professor was hacked to death in the northwestern city of Rajshahi, the latest in a series of murders of secular bloggers and liberal activists that has left the country reeling.

The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack through its news agency, saying the 58-year-old professor who wrote poetry and fiction had been slain for "calling for atheism".

However, Bangladesh home minister Asaduzzaman Khan rejected the assertion and said "local militants" were responsible for the murder. The ISIS has in recent months claimed responsibility for the killing of Christians, Hindu priests and members of the minority Sufi, Ahmadi and Shia faiths in Bangladesh.

The local branch of al-Qiada has also claimed the murders of secular bloggers and activists, including the killing this month of a 26-year-old atheist law student who had mocked Islam on his Facebook page. Bangladesh police, however, said they suspect banned local Islamist outfits, the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh and the Ansarullah Bangla Team, of being behind the killings.

Also on Monday, Bangladesh's best-known blogger became the latest secular activist to be threatened with murder, a warning he suspected was linked to his recent scathing criticism of the government.