Gay rights activists hacked to death

The bodies of the two murdered gay rights activists being taken away from an apartment building in Dhaka on Monday. There has been a series of attacks on minorities in the country recently.
The bodies of the two murdered gay rights activists being taken away from an apartment building in Dhaka on Monday. There has been a series of attacks on minorities in the country recently.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DHAKA • Two leading gay rights activists were hacked to death on Monday in an apartment in Bangladesh's capital, police said, the latest deadly attack on minorities in the Muslim-majority nation.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder said at least six men had entered the seven-storey building, saying they were there to deliver a parcel to the home of one of the victims.

Private station Jamuna TV, quoting witnesses, reported that the attackers shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is the greatest) and fired blanks to create panic as they left.

Police did not identify the victims, but an executive at Roopbaan, the country's only LBGT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) magazine, named one as editor Xulhaz Mannan. He named the other victim as Mahbub Tonoy, who is also gay and on the magazine's executive committee.

The United States said Mr Mannan had been working with the American development agency USAID in Bangladesh.

US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat said: "We abhor this senseless act of violence and urge the government of Bangladesh in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders."

Mr Mannan and some friends launched Roopbaan two years ago and were behind the Rainbow Rally, which since 2014 has been held on April 14, the Bengali New Year. Police banned the rally this year as part of security measures and briefly arrested four LGBT activists after they tried to stage the event.

Ahead of the planned rally, Mr Mannan said that Islamists had posted threatening messages online.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2016, with the headline 'Gay rights activists hacked to death'. Print Edition | Subscribe