2 Gay Rights Activists hacked to death in Bangladesh

Two gay rights activists died in a brutal assault by few militants. Suspected Islamist militants hacked to death a leading Bangladeshi gay rights activist employed by the US embassy and his friend in an apartment in Bangladesh’s capital on Monday, police said. This is the latest in a series of chilling attacks on writers, intellectuals and religious minorities in the Muslim-majority nation.

At least six men posing as courier boys and carrying machetes and guns entered an apartment building in Dhaka on Monday night and killed Mr Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Rupban, a magazine for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, and fellow activist friend Mahbub Tonoy and hacked them to death.

xulhaz mannan and mahbub tonoy
Xulhaz Mannan (left) and Mahbub Tonoy (right), both were murdered by unidentified assailants on Monday

The assailants also wounded a security guard. Witnesses said the attackers shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest) and fired blanks to spread panic as they fled the scene.

The killings took place two days after a liberal English professor was slain in similar fashion on Saturday in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

Roopban, Bangladesh’s first and only magazine for gay, bisexual and transgender people, the LBGT magazine, was launched by Mannan and some of his friends two years ago. They were also the organizers behind an annual Rainbow Rally which since 2014 has been held on April 14, Bengali New Year.

Mannan had said that ahead of the event, AFP Islamists had posted threatening messages online. “They have even set up an online group to threaten us,” he said.

Mannan was also employed by the US Embassy and worked for USAID. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was ‘outraged’ by the barbaric attack. United States has also offered its support to the Bangladesh government in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

In Bangladesh, a fervor of intolerance has been growing. Slaying people for their ‘rational’, ‘atheist’ or even ‘anti-Islamic’ views is acquiring epidemic proportions. The conservative Muslim nation of 160 million people has witnessed systemic violent attacks over the past few months in which liberal activists, members of minority Muslim sects and other religious groups have been targeted.

Since February 2015, five secular bloggers and a publisher have been hacked to death in Bangladesh. Many secular bloggers have fled the country, concerning their safety.

A number of Christians, Hindus and Sufi, Ahmadi and Shi’ite Muslims have also been killed since last year. No one has yet been convicted over those deaths despite a number of arrests.

On Monday, Bangladesh’s best-known blogger Imran Sarker, who led major protests by secular activists in 2013 against Islamist leaders, became the latest secular activist to be threatened.

A group affiliated with al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) have claimed responsibility for such attacks in Bangladesh, but the government has denied their involvement. The government denied the presence of  Islamic State or al Qaeda groups in the country and said homegrown Islamist radicals are behind the attacks.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina blamed the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally, Jamaat-e-Islami for the killings. Hasina’s government has been slammed by rights groups for failing to protect the secular activists and Bangladesh’s minorities.

Bangladesh police detained a college student and claimed to have found some ‘important evidence’ in connection with the killings. Police found a bag used by the assailants which appeared to be an ‘important evidence’ in investigating the case. One police official said they found several items including a mobile phone in the bag.

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