One of the prime suspects in the case was arrested on Tuesday
At least 13 Ansar-al Islam members including wanted militant sacked army Major Syed Ziaul Haq were involved in the murder of Xulhaz Mannan, the founder of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine, and his friend Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, investigators reveal.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s (DMP) Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit chief Monirul Islam made the revelation on Wednesday, a day after one of the prime suspects in the sensational murder case was caught.
Police arrested the banned militant group’s operational wing member Asadullah, 25, from Tongi on Tuesday evening, Monirul told a press briefing at the DMP’s Media Centre in Dhaka.
A Dhaka court later in the day also granted three-day remand to quiz Asadullah after the special counterterrorism force produced him before it, seeking 10 days to further interrogate him.
Xulhaz, an LGBT activist and a staff member of USAID, and Tonoy, a theatre activist, were hacked to death at the former’s Kalabagan residence in Dhaka on April 25, 2016.
Who is Asadullah?
A resident of Jhenaidah's Maheshpur, Asadullah also goes by a number of aliases — including Fakhrul, Zakir, and Sadik within Ansar-al Islam.
He was a mechanical engineering student in Jessore Polytechnic Institute before he joined the militant outfit.
“He [Asadullah] was also a member of the Islami Chhatra Shibir unit in Jessore’s Nowapara union,” confirmed Monirul, an additional commissioner in DMP.
Tuesday’s arrest, however, was not Asadullah’s first brush with police.
He managed to escape and successfully snatched a handgun from a policeman during a raid at a house in Badda about two months before Xulhaz and Tonoy’s murders, said Monirul. The policeman was injured during the brawl.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Asadullah’s father Emdadul Haque, a retired madrasa teacher, also confirmed Asadullah’s arrest along with his younger son Abujar Hossain.
Emdadul, once a senior figure of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami’s Chuadanga unit, claimed that both his sons were picked up a week ago, not Tuesday.
CTTC chief Monirul, however, did not mention anything in the press briefing about Abujar, a freshman at the Islamic University in Kushtia.
According to Emdadul, Abujar was visiting his elder brother at his place in Tongi, after four long years, when the duo was picked up.
“My elder son [Asadullah] spoke to his mother via Abujar’s phone. I am guessing police tracked him during the conversation,” said the father while talking to the Dhaka Tribune over phone.
Emdadul admitted that Asadullah left home in 2014 when the differences of opinion on the country’s democratic situation between them turned a little hostile.
How did the executions take place?
According to CTTC chief Monirul Islam, seven people had taken part in the actual killing mission on April 25, 2016.
The assassination team, which included five Ansar-al Islam operational wing members, prayed at a mosque near Xulhaz’s apartment before sneaking into the building to execute him.
Of the seven, five entered the building while the other two took position outside to keep them updated about the situation.
Two members of the five-men killing group conned the guard and later chopped him with a machete, while the rest three climbed up the stairs to Xulhaz’s apartment on the first floor and entered forcefully before hacking him and Tonoy, who was visiting Xulhaz, to death.
This was Ansar-al Islam’s last major operation in 2016, Monirul told Wednesday’s press briefing.
“After this, the militant outfit could not carry out any significant operation since our [law enforcement agency’s] amped up activities made them weak,” he said.
CTTC, according to Monirul, arrested five people in connection with the murder; of which four were directly involved in the killing.
Of the four, three — Arafat alias Shams alias Seyam alias Sajjad, Saymon alias Shahrier, and Shekh Abdullah alias Jubayer alias Jahid alias Jayed alias Abu Omayer — later confessed before a judge under Section 164 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure.