Bangladesh’s elite security force on Thursday (10) arrested the head of a banned hardline Islamist group over the murder of two atheist bloggers that sparked an international outcry, a spokesman said.
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) spokesman said they had arrested Mohammad Abul Bashar, head of an Islamic group called Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) which was banned in May over a series of killings of bloggers.
Two others members of the ABT were also arrested on Thursday in the capital Dhaka, RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan told reporters.
“They are suspects in the murders of bloggers Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das,” Khan said, referring to the writers who were killed earlier this year.
Four secular bloggers have been hacked to death in Muslim-majority Bangladesh since the start of the year, including Roy and Das, sparking international condemnation and protests mainly by secular activists in the capital.
Khan said Bashar took over leadership of the ABT after his older brother, the group’s founder and spiritual leader, was arrested in 2013 over the murder of another blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider.
The leader, Jashim Uddin Rahmani, ordered the murders of the bloggers from his jail cell this year, a message that Bashar took to their followers, the RAB has said previously.
The two others arrested on Thursday, Julhas Biswas and Jafran al Hasan, “took part in the killing mission” the RAB has also previously said.
Roy, a US citizen who was born in Bangladesh, was murdered in February by a gang wielding machetes in Dhaka. Das, 33, was killed in similar fashion as he headed to work at a bank in the northeastern city of Sylhet on May 13.
The government has vowed to hunt down the killers after facing accusations that it was not doing enough to stop the attacks.