Three arrested over blogger killings in Bangladesh

Security personnel with suspects (from left) Touhidur Rahman, Sadek Ali and Aminul Mollick at a media briefing in Dhaka yesterday. Police say Rahman, a British citizen, was the main planner of the killings.
Security personnel with suspects (from left) Touhidur Rahman, Sadek Ali and Aminul Mollick at a media briefing in Dhaka yesterday. Police say Rahman, a British citizen, was the main planner of the killings.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DHAKA • Bangladesh's elite security force arrested three suspected Islamist militants, including a British citizen whom police said was the "main planner" of the murder of two prominent atheist bloggers.

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) spokesmen said they arrested Touhidur Rahman, 58, and two other "active members" of an Islamist group yesterday. The group, Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), was banned in May over a series of killings of bloggers.

"We've arrested them in the capital today. We can confirm that Rahman is a Bangladesh-origin British citizen. He is the main planner of the attacks on Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das," Major Maksudul Alam of the RAB said.

Four secular bloggers have been hacked to death in Muslim-majority Bangladesh since the start of the year, including Mr Roy and Mr Das, prompting international condemnation and sparking protests mainly by secular activists in the capital.

Mr Roy, 42, a US citizen who was born in Bangladesh, was murdered in February by a gang wielding machetes in an attack in Dhaka. Mr Das, 33, was killed in similar fashion as he headed to work in the north- eastern city of Sylhet on May 13.

The government has vowed to hunt down the killers after facing accusations that too little was being done to stop such attacks.

Police described Rahman as the main attack planner and "main financier" of ABT, whose members are mostly students from private universities.

"The other two Ansarullah members arrested today are Sadek Ali and Aminul Mollick. Ali has admitted in primary investigations that he took part in both the murders," Major Alam said.

Bangladesh police last week also arrested two suspected members of the group for the murder of Mr Niloy Chakrabarti, who was the fourth blogger to be killed when he was hacked to death on Aug 7.

Mr Chakrabarti had posted on Facebook months before his death that he had been followed by two young men, but police refused to register the complaint and instead told him to leave the country.

The other victim was secular blogger Washiqur Rahman, 27, who was killed in Dhaka four months ago.

Police were also investigating claims made by a third party that Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent was behind the killings. It has already claimed responsibility for the murder of Mr Roy.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Three arrested over blogger killings in Bangladesh'. Print Edition | Subscribe