Police in Bangladesh said Wednesday they had arrested a prime suspect in the October 2015 killing of publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan, who printed the secular works of slain U.S.-Bangladeshi writer Avijit Roy.
Suspect Moinul Hasan Shamim (whose aliases include Sifat, Samir and Imran) was picked up on Tuesday night in Tongi, an industrial area on the outskirts of Dhaka, the chief of the Bangladeshi police counter terrorist and transnational crimes unit, told a news conference in the capital.
“Dipan was killed for publishing the books of Avijit Roy,” police counter-terror chief Monirul Islam later told BenarNews, adding, “[S]hamim was in charge of Dipan’s killing.”
Shamim was one of five people who allegedly killed Dipan and belonged to the home-grown militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), Islam said. The five were trained by an ABT commander, a renegade army officer known as Maj. Haq, according to the senior police official.
Bangladeshi authorities have blamed ABT for killings dating to February 2013 where secular bloggers, writers, intellectuals and gay-rights activists have been hacked to death.
Under initial interrogation, Shamim confessed to killing Riyad Morshed Babu, a student at the Shanto-Marium University of Creative Technology in Dhaka, on Jan. 4, Islam said.
On Wednesday, officers produced Shamim before a court, which granted police a six-day remand to continue interrogation, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) spokesman Masudur Rahman told BenarNews.
Dipon, who headed the Jagriti publishing house, was killed during a machete attack on its offices in Dhaka by suspected ABT members on Oct. 31, 2015. On the same day, militants attacked the offices of another Dhaka publishing house, Shuddhashar, injuring co-publisher Ahmedur Rashid Tutul and two writers.
Both houses had published the secular works of Avijit Roy, who was killed in a machete attack as he left a literary festival in Dhaka on Feb. 26, 2015.
“I think the police are working to catch the killers. The government intelligence agencies have been working with sincerity,” Professor Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque, Dipan’s father, told BenarNews Wednesday.
Kerry to visit Dhaka
Roy, a writer and blogger whose writings challenged religious beliefs in predominantly Sunni Muslim Bangladesh, was a U.S. citizen who lived in the Atlanta area. The string of killings in Bangladesh had another American connection.
Xulhaz Mannan, a gay-rights activist who edited Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine and who worked at the U.S. embassy for the United States Agency for International Development, was killed during an attack at his Dhaka apartment on April 25.
The killing outraged the U.S. government. Soon afterward, it sent a top American diplomat, Nisha Desai Biswal, to Bangladesh for talks on bilateral ties in combating extremism and terrorism there.
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department announced that Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to Dhaka on Monday for meetings with Bangladeshi officials “to discuss our growing cooperation on global issues,” press relations director Elizabeth Trudeau said in a news release.
“He also will focus on strengthening our longstanding bilateral partnership on democracy, development, security and human rights,” Trudeau said of Kerry’s one-day visit to Bangladesh.
5 Suspected JMB operatives arrested
While police suspect ABT of killing bloggers, intellectuals and LGBT activists and others, the Bangladeshi authorities blame another home-grown militant group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) for terrorist attacks including the July 1 siege at a café in Dhaka that killed 20 hostages, including 17 foreigners, and two policemen.
On Wednesday, Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) announced it arrested five suspected JMB members, including one operative who allegedly had trained a group of woman as militants, during early morning raids in Gazipur, a district of Dhaka division.
The five were identified as Rasheduzzaman, Shahbuddin, Abdul Hai, Firoz and Saiful, said RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan.
“Rasheduzzaman is the acting head of the JMB’s southern region unit. He trained the female members we recently arrested and Shahabuddin is a member of their suicide squad. They have been planning to carry out attacks in Dhaka,” Khan told reporters, referring to the arrests of eight suspected female JMB members since late July.
Arrest warrant for opposition official
In other developments on Wednesday, a court in Dhaka issued arrest warrants for two men wanted in the September 2015 killing of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella in the city’s diplomatic quarter, including a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, M.A. Quayum.
The other suspect at-large was identified as Sohel (alias Bhangari Sohel). Five other men are in custody in connection with the Tavella’s killing.
The diplomatic quarter is also where the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery café, claimed by Islamic State, took place.
On Wednesday, a Dhaka court rejected a bail plea for one of two men in custody in connection with that attack, British citizen Hasnat Karim, his lawyer told reporters. The other man in custody is Tahmid Hasib Khan, a student at the University of Toronto.