Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bangladesh arrests three men including Briton over murders of secular bloggers

Bangladesh’s security forces have arrested three suspected Islamist militants over the murders of two prominent secular bloggers, including the alleged “main planner”, who the police say is a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin. The Rapid Action Battalion, a paramilitary police unit, said it had arrested Touhidur Rahman, 58, and two other “active members” of Ansarullah Bangla Team, which was banned in May over a series of killings of bloggersThe RAB said Rahman was the mastermind and financier of the attacks on bloggers Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das, who were killed earlier this year.

The suspects were arrested on Monday night in raids in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, and appeared with authorities at a news briefing on Tuesday. Mahmud Khan, the head of the RAB’s media wing, said another suspect who was arrested, Sadek Ali, acted as a bridge to communicate with Jasim Rahmani, the alleged head of Ansarullah Bangla Team. Ali, 28, became involved with Rahmani while working as a printing-press worker, Khan said.

Rahmani is currently in jail awaiting trial in the murder of another blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, in Dhaka in 2013. Khan said the third suspect, 35-year-old Aminul Mollick, was a broker at a passport office and helped members of the group make fake passports so that they could travel abroad if necessary.

The RAB did not allow the detainees to talk to reporters at the news briefing. Khan said Rahman, 58, is an information technology expert and returned to Bangladesh from the UK in either 2011 or 2012. He then got in touch with Rahmani, who inspired him to work for the group. “He is the main planner of all the recent killings of the bloggers,” Khan said.
During interrogation after their arrests, Khan said, the men admitted that a team of four or five took part in the killing of Roy, a Bangladesh-born US citizen. The same team was involved in the attack on Das, Khan said.

Four secular bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh since the start of the year, including Roy and Das. Roy, a US citizen who was born in Bangladesh, was murdered in February by a gang wielding machetes in an attack in Dhaka. Das, 33, was killed in similar fashion when he was on his way to work at a bank in the north-eastern city of Sylhet on 13 May. A spokeswoman for the UK Foreign Office said: “We are aware of reports that a British national has been arrested in Bangladesh and are seeking clarification from the authorities. We stand ready to provided consular assistance.”