Bangladeshi police on Monday said they had arrested one of five suspects wanted in the killing of secular blogger Nazimuddin Samad in a machete attack on April 6.
The police’s counter-terrorist unit arrested Rashidun Nabi, a suspected member of militant group Ansar Al Islam (which is also known as Ansarullah Bangla Team), in the Sayedabad area of Dhaka on Sunday night, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) said in a statement issued Monday. Nabi is the only suspect who has been caught in connection with the killing of Samad, a blogger and law student at Jagannath University in Dhaka.
The arrest came a day after Bangladesh executed Asadul Islam Arif, a convicted member of militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), for his involvement in a bomb attack that killed two judges – Sohel Ahmed and Jagannath Pandey – in the southern district of Jhalakathi in 2005.
Monirul Islam, chief of the counter-terrorism unit, told reporters on Monday that five members of Ansar Al Islam took part in the killing of Samad, who was the sixth secular blogger in Bangladesh to be killed in a machete-attack in by religious extremists since February 2015. He said Nabi’s team had targeted Samad for three months before the attack.
“A total five killers armed with machetes and a firearm took part in the killing mission. Nabi was in charge of the killing team and he himself hacked Samad. He confessed to killing Samad,” Islam told reporters at the DMP media office.
Samad was killed by a group of at least five attackers on April 7 while walking in the Sutrapur area in Dhaka, Matin, a local businessman who witnessed the attack, told BenarNews following the killing.
He said the attackers also fired guns as a crowd gathered.
Islam said ABT members were responsible for the killings of bloggers, publishers and gay-rights activists, but did not specifically identify the militant group as suspects in the April 25, 2016 killings in the Bangladeshi capital of LGBT rights activist Xulhaz Mannan, a Bangladeshi who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Dhaka, and another man, Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy.
JMB member executed
On Sunday night, Arif, who took part in a 2005 bomb attack that killed judges Ahmed and Pandey, was hanged by jail authorities in southwestern city of Khulna.
“Arif has been executed. His body has been handed over to the family members,” Quamrul Islam, the superintendent of jail in Khulna, told BenarNews.
Arif was the seventh Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) member executed for the attack that killed the two judges. It was among bombings carried out 11 years ago by the militant group in 62 of the nation’s 64 districts and that targeted its judicial system. Before the bombings in August 2005, members distributed leaflets calling the people to join their fight to establish Shariah law in the country.
On March 29, 2007, the government executed JMB founder Shaikh Abdur Rahman, his brother Ataur Rahman Saany, and his son-in-law, Abdul Awal, its military wing leader, Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, Iftekhar Hossain Mamum, and Khaled Saifullah alias Faruqe over the killings of the judges.
The police arrested Arif in July 2007 and he appealed his capital punishment conviction before the high court. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence on Aug. 28. Arif did not seek presidential clemency and was executed according to the law, the jail superintendent said.
Following the execution, the government on Monday said it was fast-tracking trials of extremists, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
Since July, police have killed at least 32 suspected members of Neo-JMB, a faction of JMB that authorities blame for a terrorist attack that left 29 dead, including 20 hostages, at a café in Dhaka.
In addition, courts have accelerated prosecutions of Islamic extremists. Bangladeshi Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told AFP that the government was “trying to fast-track all the militant-related cases.”
Police spokesman A.K.M Shahidur Rahman said at least 64 Islamist extremists were on death row and their appeals were being heard in the higher courts, according to AFP.