Bangladesh Arrests Three More Suspects in Murders of Two Bloggers

Shahriar Sharif

2015-09-11
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150911-BD-suspects-1000 Bangladeshi police escort alleged Ansarullah Banga Team (ABT) leader Md. Abul Bashar (second from left) and suspected ABT members Jafran al- Hassan and Julhas Biswas (third and fourth from left) after their arrests, Sept. 11, 2015.
AFP

A court in Dhaka on Friday granted police seven days to interrogate three suspected members of a banned Islamist group, who were arrested the day before in connection with the murders of secular bloggers Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das.

The suspects include Md. Abul Bashar, acting chief of Ansarullah Bangla Team, and two other ABT operatives – Jafran al- Hassan and Julhas Biswas – Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said in a news release.

Members of the elite security unit arrested the suspects in the Fakirapool section of Dhaka on Thursday afternoon. Police had asked for a 10-day remand to hold the three for questioning, but Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Shahriar Mahmud Adnan only agreed to seven days, after the suspects were produced before the court.

“The arrested militants confessed to having murdered the two bloggers. RAB detectives came to learn beforehand that Bashar, Jafran and Julhas were trying to flee the country. But we were able to arrest them before that,” Lt. Col. Golam Sarwar, director of RAB-3, told BenarNews.

Roy and Das were among four secular bloggers slain this year by suspected Islamic fundamentalists, in attacks in which the killers hacked their victims to death with machetes. A total of five bloggers have died this way since February 2013.

All of them were killed apparently because they had criticized religious fundamentalism or dared to express atheistic viewpoints.

“From our interrogation of the arrested suspects we learned that two others, named Ramzan (alias Siam) and Nayeem, were directly involved in the killings of Avijit and Ananta. We’re trying to arrest them,” Maksudul Alam, assistant director of RAB’s media wing, told BenarNews.

“Very soon we’ll be able to solve these two sensational cases,” he added.

Filling in for jailed sibling

Suspect Md. Abul Bashar is the brother of alleged ABT chief Mufti Jashim Uddin Rahmani, who is now in prison in connection with the murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in 2013, the RAB release said.

The other two suspects belong to ABT’s media team, the RAB added.

According to the RAB, Bashar ran the Islamist outfit in his brother’s absence, but Rahmani was sending him instructions for how to direct ABT operations, including the murders of bloggers.

Under pressure

Thursday’s arrests came 17 days after the RAB arrested three others suspects in the Roy and Das homicide cases.

Those arrests took place days after police picked up two other men in connection with the murder of blogger Niladri Chottopaddhya, who was killed by a gang of intruders at his apartment home in a suburb of Dhaka on Aug. 7.

Law enforcement agencies, at the same time, are under increasing pressure to solve these murders. While the agencies are claiming swift action in apprehending the killers, questions nonetheless persist about whether investigators are making any headway or catching the real culprits.

“There is no way to verify their claims because the reporters are not allowed to interview the suspects in custody, and it’s bound to raise questions about the veracity of their claims,” Badiul Alam Mazumdar, secretary of Sujon, a human rights groups campaigning for the rule of law and social justice in Bangladesh, told BenarNews, referring to the RAB and police.

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