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Bangladesh’s Al Qaeda branch claims killing of gay rights activist and friend

Bangladesh stabbing death

Bangladeshi Muslims attend the April 26 funeral of Xulhaz Mannan, the editor of an LGBT magazine who was stabbed to death in Dhaka.

(Associated Press)

An Al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility Tuesday for the killings of a gay-rights activist and his friend in the Bangladeshi capital.

Ansar al-Islam, a banned militant group and the Bangladeshi branch of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, posted Twitter messages claiming responsibility, saying the men “were working day and night to promote homosexuality … with the help of their masters, the U.S. crusaders and its Indian allies.”

Police said the victims – Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Bangaldesh’s only LGBT magazine and a longtime employee of the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, and theater activist Tanay Majumder – had been followed for several days before their slaying.

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The killings were “planned extensively,” said the inspector general of Dhaka police, Shahidul Haque. No arrests have been made in the case.

Mannan joined the U.S. Agency for International Development as an employee in Dhaka last year and had worked for the previous eight years at the U.S. Embassy. The USAID administrator, Gayle Smith, described him as “a dedicated and courageous advocate for human rights.”

The two were found hacked to death by machetes at an apartment in the capital Monday evening, a double-slaying that bore similarities to the killing of a university professor a few days earlier.

Ansar al-Islam has previously claimed responsibility for the killings of several secular activists.

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The spate of killings of secular and liberal activists has alarmed Bangladesh and raised fears of growing lawlessness and extremism in the overwhelmingly Muslim South Asian nation. The police inspector, Haque, said he was confident the killers would be found and rejected blame over the incidents.

“Everybody should be aware of their own safety,” Haque said. “It is not possible for police to guard all houses.”

Kader is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Shashank Bengali contributed to this report from Lahore, Pakistan.

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