Gay Rights Activist, Another Man Hacked to Death in Bangladesh

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2016.04.25
Dhaka
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160425_BD_MURDER_620.jpg The bodies of two men who were hacked to death are brought down from an apartment in Dhaka, April 25, 2016.
AFP

Updated at 6:04 p.m. ET on 2016-04-25

Assailants on Monday hacked to death the editor of Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine and another man inside an apartment in Dhaka, police and witnesses said.

Xulhaz Mannan, the 35-year-old editor of Roopbaan magazine who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and was a former protocol officer at the U.S. embassy, and Mahbub Tanmay, 34, were fatally attacked at Mannan’s apartment by a group posing as couriers, officials said.

“Three attackers forcefully entered the house and hacked to death the USAID official and his friend. The police have been investigating the incident. We will find out the killers, I tell you,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews on Monday night.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing, “We are outraged by the barbaric attack,” adding that Mannan was a beloved member of the embassy and a “courageous activist for LGBT rights.”

The White House paid tribute to Xulhaz Mannan in deploring "the brutal murders this evening in Dhaka."

"[H]e worked on behalf of his fellow Bangladeshis as a voice for justice, equality, and human rights for all.  Mr. Mannan set an example of dignity, courage, and selflessness, and his legacy will live on in the causes he championed," National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement issued by the White House press office.

Wave of attacks

Parvez Molla, a private security guard, was also injured in the attack that occurred around 5 p.m. and brought to four the number of people killed in machete attacks in Bangladesh since April 7, including a university professor and a secular blogger.

Police suspect that Islamic militants may have been involved in the first two killings, but authorities had yet to say whether there was such a link to Monday’s double-homicide in Bangladesh.

A wave of machete attacks by suspected militants has gripped the predominantly Muslim country since early last year, targeting secular writers, intellectuals and members of religious minorities.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia told reporters that Monday’s killings were “pre-mediated” to create “anarchy” in the country. But he did not reveal any information on who may have been behind the attack.

The latest killings occurred less than 60 hours after A.F.M. Rezaul Karim Siddique, an English professor at Rajshahi University, was slain with machetes on Saturday morning.

A student at the campus in northwestern Bangladesh, who is a member of the student wing of the faith-based opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami, has been arrested in connection with Siddique’s killing, according to Agence France-Presse.

Witness accounts

According to witnesses, at least five strangers came to the West Dhanmondi apartment building where Mannan lived with his mother and a servant.

The security guard Molla asked the strangers to identify themselves and they replied that they were delivering a package to Mannan, police said.

Three of the strangers headed to the apartment, followed by Molla.

“Mannan sir opened the door and tried to shut the door, looking at them. Then I told them to leave, as sir [did] not want them to get in. Then they hit me on the left forehead and I collapsed,” Molla later told reporters at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

All of the strangers wore blue T-shirts and jeans, and they carried bags, he said.

According to another guard, Sumon, the strangers then forced their way into the apartment and attacked Mannan and Tanmay.

“I then took Molla to the hospital,” said Sumon adding that the attackers chanted “Allahu Akbar.

‘Senseless act’

Mannan was the editor of the country’s sole magazine devoted to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.

On April 14, four members of Bangladesh’s LGBT community were detained by police as they tried to rally under the Roopbaan banner at Pahela Boishakh, the Bengali new year festivities in Dhaka.

On Monday, Roopbaan posted a two-word message on its Facebook page in Mannan’s memory: “R.I.P. Xulhaz.”

Monday’s killings in Dhaka drew condemnation from U.S. officials.

“I am devastated by the brutal murder of Xulhaz Mannan and another young Bangladeshi this evening in Dhaka. Xulhaz was more than a colleague to those of us fortunate to work with him at the U.S. Embassy,” American Ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat said in a statement.

“We abhor this senseless act of violence and urge the Government of Bangladesh in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders,” she added.

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