Group affiliated to Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for killing of gay activist in Bangladesh

Relatives and friends attend the funeral prayer of Bangladeshi activist Xulhaz Mannan in Dhaka, on April 26, 2016.
Relatives and friends attend the funeral prayer of Bangladeshi activist Xulhaz Mannan in Dhaka, on April 26, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA (Reuters) - A group affiliated to Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility on Tuesday (April 26) for killing a Bangladeshi gay rights activist and his friend, the latest in a string of murders of liberal activists and other minorities in the South Asian nation.

A Twitter handle that identified itself as an outlet of Ansar Al Islam said its fighters had killed Mr Xulhaz Mannan and Mr Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, calling them "the pioneers of practicing (sic) and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh".

"They were working day and night to promote homosexuality among the people of this land... with the help of their masters, the US crusaders and their Indian allies," read the statement signed by spokesman Mufti Abdullah Ashraf.

Ansar Al Islam, which is part of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, has issued similar claims for attacks in the past, according to a Bangladeshi security expert.

 

The authenticity of the claim of responsibility could not immediately be verified.

Mr Maruf Hossain Sardar, a spokesman for the Dhaka city police, dismissed the group's claim as baseless, saying international militant groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda had no organisational base in Bangladesh.

The slaying of Mr Mannan, editor of Bangladesh's first magazine for gay, bisexual and transgender people, has deeply shocked Bangladesh's embattled community of liberal intellectuals.

Mr Mannan, 35, was hacked to death on Monday in his apartment in the capital Dhaka by a group of assailants posing as couriers. His friend, actor Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, 25, was killed in the same attack, according to the police.