Bangladeshi police arrest Islamist suspects in blogger slayings

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Dhaka (dpa) – Three members of an Islamist militant group in Bangladesh were arrested Thursday for their alleged roles in the machete attacks that killed two secular bloggers.

The men, who affiliated themselves with the outlawed Ansarullah Bangla Team, were arrested on suspicion of being linked to the killings of Bangladesh-born US writer Avijit Roy and atheist science writer Ananta Bijoy Das, a security forces officer said.

Investigators detained the acting chief of the Ansarullah Bangla Team, Md Abul Bashar, with his associates Julhas Biswas and Zafran Al Hasan in Dhaka’s central Fakirerpul area, officer Mufti Mahmud of the Rapid Action Battalion said.

The battalion captured three more suspects on August 18, including a Bangladesh-born Briton, over the slayings. Investigators said they later confessed.

The Ansarullah Bangla Team campaigns for the introduction of shariah law in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh.

Roy, who founded the blog Mukto-Mona, or “Free Thinker,” was hacked to death in Dhaka as he was returning from a book fair on February 26.

Das was killed in a similar attack May 12 in the north-eastern city of Sylhet.

Ansar Al Islam, a local radical group linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network, claimed responsibility for the killings on social media, calling the victims enemies of Islam and God.

Roy and Das were two of four writers killed this year for their writing criticizing religious fundamentalism in Bangladesh.

Atheist blogger Oyeshekur Rahman Babu was hacked to death in central Dhaka on March 30 after he criticized Islam.

On August 7, attackers entered the apartment of blogger Niladri Chattapadhay and also hacked him to death.

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