U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Desai Biswal said she discussed bilateral cooperation in countering terrorism and extremism during a meeting with Bangladesh’s foreign minister and other senior officials in Dhaka on Wednesday.
The meeting on the first day of a three-day visit by Biswal took place amid mounting American pressure on Bangladesh to stop a wave of machete killings by suspected Islamic extremists and to thoroughly investigate killings of secular bloggers and activists dating to last year.
“Important talks with FM Ali, State Minister Alam, & FS Haque on US-#Bangladesh partnership and combating terrorism and extremism,” Biswal said in a message posted on Twitter.
Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asian Affairs, arrived in the Bangladeshi capital nine days after two Bangladeshi gay rights activists, including a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) worker, were slain together in a machete-attack by suspected militants.
Later on Wednesday, Biswal said she met with staff at the U.S. embassy and USAID to share memories of Xulhaz Mannan, the aid worker who was killed at this Dhaka apartment on April 25 alongside K. Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, a theater actor.
Both men were gay rights activists and Mannan was the editor of Bangladesh’s first magazine devoted to the coverage of LGBT issues in the country.
“#XulhazMannan embodied courage and selflessness and his legacy will live on in causes he championed,” Biswal tweeted on Wednesday.
Three other people – an English professor, a secular blogger and a Hindu tailor – were killed in separate machete attacks last month that marked an escalation in killings at the hands of suspected extremists in Bangladesh. Last year, militants hacked to death five writers and intellectuals, including Bangladeshi-American secular blogger Avijit Roy.
After landing in Dhaka, Biswal went to a state guest house where she met behind closed doors for at least two hours with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali and other senior officials from the ministry.
At around 11:30 a.m., the foreign minister and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam left the building without talking to journalists.
Biswal was scheduled to meet on Thursday with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal. During her visit she was also expected to meet with local human rights and civil society groups.
The senior American diplomat arrived in Bangladesh six days after her boss, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, called Hasina to offer U.S. support for the investigation into the killing of Mannan and Tonoy, according to officials at state.
“The Secretary also condemned other incidents in a recent spate of violence,” according to a statement issued last week by the State Department.
“The Secretary urged Prime Minister Hasina to ensure a thorough investigation of all of these incidents, and to redouble law enforcement efforts to prevent future attacks and protect those who are at risk,” the statement added.