A British Citizen has been arrested in Bangladesh, suspected of being the “main planner” and “financier” behind the gruesome murder of two prominent bloggers who dared to criticise religion in the Muslim majority country.
Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Briton Touhidur Rahman, 58, and two other “active members” of Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) yesterday.
ABT was banned in May following the ongoing series of murders. Four secular and atheist bloggers have been bludgeoned to death in the streets with knives and machetes since the beginning of the year – the latest killing earlier this month.
“We’ve arrested them in the capital today. We can confirm that Rahman is a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin. He is the main planner of the attacks on Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das,” Major Maksudul Alam of the RAB told AFP today.
“[The suspect] told us that he is a British citizen,” said Mufti Mahmood, head of the RAB’s legal and media division, adding that the three suspects will be paraded before the press later today.
Bangladesh is officially a secular nation, yet over 90 per cent of its 160 million population are Muslim and radical Islam is on the rise. Non-Muslim writers are forced to use pseudonyms and many have fled abroad.
The government has faced increasing calls to do more to protect its citizens. In May, authors including Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood used a petition to urge the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, “to do all in their power to ensure that the tragic events… are not repeated.”
Two other arrests have been made since and police are also investigating claims that Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) were behind the Bangladeshi blogger killings.