Police in Bangladesh on Monday announced the arrest of a photojournalist in connection with last month’s murder of secular blogger Ananta Bijoy Das in the northeastern town of Sylhet.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) named Idris Ali, 30, a photographer for the local newspaper Sobuj Sylhet, as a suspect in the May 12 killing of Das.
“We’ve some solid information about Ali and that’s why he was arrested from his house in the city’s Shahebbazar area early in the morning,” Mirza Abdullah Hel Baki, CID Special Superintendent of Police (Organized crime), told BenarNews.
Das was the third secular blogger hacked to death with machetes since February. Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American who founded the Mukto-Mona (Free Thinker) blog-site, and fellow blogger Washiqur Rahman were killed in separate attacks by suspected Islamists on Feb. 26 and March 30, respectively.
On Monday, a court in Sylhet placed Ali into custody on a seven-day remand, according to Bangladesh’s Daily Star newspaper.
Police said Ali belonged to an extremist group, but offered no details.
Wife: ‘A photojournalist and nothing else’
His family, however, contradicted the statement from police, saying he was arrested on Sunday night from another place and not his house.
“My husband didn’t come home after he left for the office on Sunday night. Police came to our house at around 2 a.m. and searched thoroughly. They then informed me about his arrest,” Mita Begum, Ali’s wife, told BenarNews by phone.
She denied that her husband was in any way involved with an extremist organization or in Das’s murder.
“His only identity is that he’s a photojournalist and nothing else. I’m sure police are making a mistake, or that they have been fed with wrong information,” she said.
Baki, the CID official, said “we believe that we’ll be able to extract more information about the murder during Ali’s interrogation. And that’s why he has been remanded.”
CID was assigned to the case of finding Das’s killers, 14 days after Sylhet Airport Police station officer-in-charge Nurul Alam failed to arrest or identify any suspects.
Nine alleged extremists arrested
In other news on Monday, police in Dhaka said they had arrested nine suspected members of the outlawed Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (HuJI) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) on Sunday night from the capital’s Banasree and Sutrapur areas.
Krishnapada Roy, joint commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan police (Detective Branch), told reporters that a group was working to create an extremist organization named “Bangladesh Jihadi Group” and modeled on the Islamic State (IS).
“The arrested are active members of that group. They were planning to rob banks in Dhaka and north Bengal for funds,” he told reporters without sharing any evidence. They also were not allowed to interview any of the suspects.
“Through interrogation we’re trying to determine whether they have any link to other extremist groups or they are being financed by other militants,” he added.
In April, police claimed they had arrested four members of the outlawed ABT in connection with a daring heist at a bank near Dhaka. Eight persons were killed in that robbery, including the bank’s manager and a suspected robber.