Two gay rights activists hacked to death in Bangladesh

Al-Qaeda affiliate claims responsibility for attack that killed editor of magazine for LGBT community and his associate.

Two people, including the editor of a magazine for the transgender community, have been hacked to death in the capital of Bangladesh.

A third person, a security guard at the apartment building where the killings took place, was seriously wounded in Monday’s attack in Dhaka, in which six attackers murdered Julhas Mannan and Tanay Mojumdar.

Mannan was the editor of Rupban, the only LGBT magazine in the country.

“Unidentified attackers entered an apartment at Kalabagan and hacked two people to death,” Maruf Hossain Sarder, a Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman, told the AFP news agency.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Hasina vowed to hunt down and prosecute those responsible.

She accused the country’s opposition party and what she called allied armed groups of being behind the killings. The opposition has denied the allegations.

No suspects have been arrested, police officer Shamim Ahmed told the Associated Press news agency.

Al-Qaeda affiliate claims responsibility

A group affiliated to al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the killings, Reuters news agency has reported.

A Twitter handle identifying itself as an outlet of Ansar al-Islam said its fighters had killed the two, denouncing them as “the pioneers of practicing (sic) and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh.

“They were working day and night to promote homosexuality among the people of this land … with the help of their masters, the US crusaders and their Indian allies,” read the statement signed by spokesman Mufti Abdullah Ashraf.

Ansar al-Islam has issued similar claims in the past, according to a Bangladeshi security expert. The authenticity of the claim of responsibility could not immediately be verified.

Maruf Hossain Sardar, spokesman for Dhaka city police, dismissed the group’s claim as baseless, saying international armed groups such Islamic State [of Iraq and the Levant] and al-Qaeda had no organisational base in Bangladesh.

Mannan’s magazine, Roopbaan, was launched two years ago and has become a platform for promoting the rights of LGBT people in Bangladesh, where homosexual acts are illegal.

The group also runs an annual Rainbow Rally on April 14, Bengali new year, that was cancelled this year as part of widespread security measures imposed by police.

The incident came two days after a university professor was killed in similar fashion in an attack in Rajshahi, which was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) group.

Parvez Mollah, an 18-year-old security guard, told Al Jazeera that the six attackers were aged between 25 and 30 and that they had arrived at the building posing as couriers.

“They told me they had some parcels for Mannan and, as I went up to his apartment, three of the six attackers followed me to the second floor and attacked Mannan with machetes,” Mollah said.

“As Mannan fell to the floor, the attackers entered the apartment and fired bullets before fleeing.”

Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury, reporting from Dhaka, said that freedom of speech was threatened by such attacks.

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