The killers of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine founder Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy have still not been arrested two years after their murder.
Police say they have already arrested five suspects, and three of them have confessed to their involvement in the crime. Information about several other suspects has been collected and police say they are pursuing their arrest.
Members of Xulhaz’s family have expressed indignation at the police’s failure to catch the killers, and fear they might not see justice meted out.
Extremists hacked Xulhaz, a local employee of USAid, and Tonoy, a theatre activist, to death at the former’s Kalabagan residence on April 25, 2016. Investigators say banned militant outfit Ansar Al Islam was behind the incident. The group had been targeting secular writers, bloggers, publishers and thinkers.
Ansar Al Islam, the followers of al-Qaeda, was previously known as Ansarullah Bangla Team. After the Xulhaz-Tonoy killing, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent claimed responsibility in a tweet.
Two cases were filed at Kalabagan police station – one for murder and another under the Arms Act. The Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit (CTTC) is investigating the cases.
CTTC Deputy Commissioner Mohibul Islam Khan said they had arrested five people who were involved at various stages of the killing. “Three of them have issued confessional statements before the court,” he said. “We have identified several other suspects.”
“We are sure that Ansar Al Islam members were behind the killing. The arrestees have also confirmed it,” he added.
Police arrested Shariful Islam alias Keramat from Kushtia’s Kumarkhali on May 15, 2016, who, they claimed, had supplied firearms for the killing. On October 17 that year, Rashidunnabi Bhuiyan alias Rasel was arrested from Sayedabad for the murder of blogger Nazimuddin. He too was arrested in the Xulhaz-Tonoy case.
Two youths, Mozammel Hossain Saimon alias Shahriar and Arafat Rahman, were arrested on November 18 and November 25 last year from Turag and Aminbazar respectively. Although they were initially arrested for Avijit Roy’s murder, they were implicated in the Xulhaz-Tonoy killing.
Suspected Ansar Al Islam member Yamin Mia alias Javed, arrested on February 18 from Demra, has also been implicated in the case.
Police officials have said that three of the suspects, except Shariful and Yamin, have admitted to being involved at various stages of the April 25, 2016, murder at Kalabagan.
Investigators say they have identified four others who had taken part in it. Sacked army major Syed Ziaul Haque is the suspected mastermind. He is currently on the run.
“Sleeper cells took part in Xulhaz-Tonoy killing and the murder of bloggers, writers and publishers,” CTTC’s Additional Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Saiful Islam said. “Only a handful of the top leaders know about the sleeper cells. The group’s members do not know each other. That is why it is difficult to glean information from the arrested members about others.”
Xulhaz’s family frustrated
The family of Xulhaz has expressed indignation and frustration at the slow progress of the investigation.
“I do not know what to say. Police do not inform us about any headway,” the victim’s elder brother Minhaz Mannan said. “We learn the updates from newspaper reports.”
“I do not think we will get justice as there is no visible progress in the investigation,” he added.
“My brother was involved with such an activity (LGBT magazine) which was not liked by many in Bangladesh, but the outside world appreciated his work,” Minhaz said. “It is the government’s duty to find out the killers and ensure their punishment.”
“Their punishment will be our solace.”
This article was first published on banglatribune.com