Suspect Arrested Over Bangladesh LGBT Activists’ Murders

Jim Burroway

May 16th, 2016

Police have arrested Shariful Islam Shihab.

Bangladesh has garnered a terrible reputation lately for violent attacks against bloggers, secular writers, professors, leaders of religious minorities, and other activists who dare to challenge the influence of conservative Islam in what had been a secular and relatively multicultural society. Militants have been specifically targeting those whom they accuse of atheism, like Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique who was hacked to death by machete-wielding Islamists as he set out to work one morning at Rajshahi University. He was the fourth professor at that university killed in recent year. (His daughter denies that he was an atheist.) More than two dozen have been killed since 2013, including two foreigners last October.

Two days after Siddique’s murder, Xulhaz Mannan, 35 and editor of the country’s first and only LGBT magazine, and fellow activist and actor, Tanay Mojumdar, were hacked to death on April 25. Mannan, who edited Roopbaan, and Mojumdar were attacked with meat cleavers in Mannan’s apartment by five to seven attackers, according to witnesses.

Xulhaz Mannan (left) and Tanay Mojum (right)

Xulhaz Mannan (left) and Tanay Mojum (right)

Mannan launched Roopbaan in 2014, and was an employee of the U.S. embassy in Dhaka where he worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). U.S. Ambassador Marcia Bernicat condemned the killing and called on the Bangladesh government “in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders.” An al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility, a claim that was disputed by the government, which instead blamed local Islamist groups.

So far, only one of the two dozen attacks have resulted in an arrest and prosecution since 2013. Mannan’s connections as a cousin of a former Foreign Minister in the governing party may result in a second prosecution. Yesterday, police arrested Shariful Islam Shihab, a member of the the banned Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami and another militant group, Ansarullah Bangla Team. According to police, Shihab confessed to the killing, which was the result of two months of planning. Police say they are reviewing video evidence to try to identify Shihab and other attackers in the crowd.


May 16th, 2016

Ambassador Bernicat called on the government in the “strongest terms” to apprehend the criminals. Really? In the “strongest terms”? Wow! What an effort!

The attackers should be hacked to death in the public square.

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