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Bangladeshi authorities arrest 3 suspects in slaying of atheist writers

Bangladeshi authorities arrest 3 suspects in slaying of atheist writers
Bangladeshi Rapid Action Battalion personnel in black accompany Touhidur Rahman in Dhaka on Aug. 18. Rahman was arrested along with two other suspects in the slayings of two prominent atheist bloggers. (Munir Uz Zaman / AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities said Tuesday they had arrested three men, including a naturalized British citizen, in the killings of two prominent atheist writers this year, part of a wave of attacks blamed on Islamist militants in Bangladesh.

The three are members of Ansarullah Bangla Team, an Islamist militant group that was banned in Bangladesh in May after police said its members had issued threats to secular writers, authorities said.

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Officials described one of the suspects, Touhidur Rahman, as a Bangladesh-born Briton who returned to Dhaka, the capital, in recent years and admitted under questioning to be the "main planner" of the killings of Avijit Roy, a U.S. resident, and Ananta Bijoy Das.

The others arrested were Sadek Ali, described as an active member of the group, and Aminul Mollik, who allegedly helped the militants by creating fake passports.

The Rapid Action Battalion arrested the men Monday night in Dhaka and they were brought before a news conference Tuesday but not allowed to answer questions from reporters.

Roy, an Atlanta-area resident who founded a blog that featured secular writings, was hacked to death by assailants outside a book fair in Dhaka in February. His wife was badly injured in the attack when she tried to come to his aid.

Weeks later, Das, who wrote that he also feared for his life following Roy's slaying, was killed in a similar attack in the eastern city of Sylhet.

Two other writers who have been critical of militant Islam have also been killed in recent months in Bangladesh, a secular Muslim nation where religious fundamentalists have gained traction in recent years.

Kader is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Shashank Bengali in Mumbai, India contributed to this report.

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