Bangladesh police arrested a suspected member of a militant group’s intelligence wing for allegedly participating in the February 2015 hacking death of secular blogger Avijit Roy, officials announced Monday.
Counter-terrorism officers arrested Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) member Abu Siddique Sohel on Sunday night, Yusuf Ali, a deputy commissioner with Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), told BenarNews. Eight other suspects have been jailed since the attack.
“Sohel has been a member of the intelligence wing of the Ansarullah Bangla Team. He gave a confessional statement on his direct involvement in killing Avijit with the help of other militants,” DMP spokesman Masudur Rahman told BenarNews.
Police arrested Sohel, 34, after identifying him from video footage collected after the Feb. 26, 2015 killing of Roy at the Ekushey Book Fair on the Dhaka University campus, Ali said.
Roy’s wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, was severely injured but survived the attack. Roy held dual U.S. and Bangladeshi citizenships.
During interrogation, Sohel allegedly confessed to police that he monitored the book fair while targeting Roy and aided and guarded other ABT members who killed the blogger, DMP said in a press statement issued Monday.
Sohel told investigators that renegade ex-army Maj. Syed Mohammad Ziaul Haque (alias Major Zia), the suspected leader of ABT, had instructed members to kill Roy. Major Zia remains at large.
Within a year of Roy’s killing, the nation’s elite Rapid Action Battalion took eight suspects into custody. The others have been identified as Shafiur Rahman Farabi, Sajeb Ali, Aminul Mallik, Julhas Biswas, Md Jafrab Hasan, Md Abul Bashar, Sadeq Halim and Touhidur Rahman, a British national of Bangladeshi origin.
All eight have been jailed but not charged.
Suspect killed in shootout
After interrogating the eight, police in May 2016 released photos of six ABT members suspected of killing Avijit and announced rewards for their capture.
One of the suspects, Mukul Rana, was killed a month later in a shootout with the police in Dhaka. Months later, the DMP released footage that showed Rana loitering near the spot where Roy was killed. Sohel was also seen in the footage.
Roy’s father and a rights activist said they hoped that Sohel’s arrest would lead to trials for the killers.
“[Avijit] would be happy when all of the killers who hacked him are tried,” professor Ajay Roy told BenarNews.
Human rights activist Nur Khan said police fumbled in their investigations into the killings of Roy and other bloggers. Since February 2013, when secular blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed near his home in Dhaka, at least 10 writers, bloggers, publishers, activists and intellectuals have been slain in machete attacks by Muslim militants.
“Bangladesh has never experienced a systematic and serial killings that led to murders of the bloggers. Those were clueless murders,” Khan told BenarNews. “Though late, we should not be hopeless.
“Now police should immediately frame charges against them and submit the charge sheet for trial,” he said.