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Bangladesh arrests key suspect in murder of gay rights activists

Bangladeshi police have arrested the prime suspect in the 2016 killing of two gay rights activists in Dhaka, officials said on Wednesday.

Monirul Islam, the chief of the police’s counter-terrorism unit, said Asadullah Zayed, 28, a suspected member of a banned Islamist militant group, was arrested on Tuesday in Gazipur district, 30 kilometres north of Dhaka.

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Investigators earlier arrested three other suspected militants after the outlawed group, Ansar-al-Islam, an affiliate of al-Qaeda’s Indian Subcontinent chapter, claimed responsibility.

They said Ansar-al-Islam claimed stabbing to death activists Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy at an apartment in central Dhaka in April 2016.

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“A group of seven militants plotted for six months to kill Mannan and Tonoy,’’ the counter-terrorism unit chief said after interrogations with the suspects.

USAID employee Mannan was the editor of Roopbaan, a magazine advocating for gay rights in the Muslim-majority country.

The Islamist group claimed that Manaan and Tunoy had been promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh since 1988.

Report says homosexuality is a punishable offence in Bangladesh, where 90 per cent of the population practices Islam.

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