A Bangladeshi extremist group affiliated with al-Qaeda on Tuesday claimed this week's killing of two gay rights activists.

Ansar Al Islam, the outlawed Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, said on Twitter its soldiers murdered Xulhaz Mannan and his associate, Samir Mahbub Tonoy.

Manaan, one of the editors of Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine, and Tonoy were hacked to death by unidentified assailants at Mannan’s apartment in Dhaka’s central Kalabagan area on Monday.

At least five secularist bloggers and a publisher have been killed in similar attacks in the South Asian country since 2015.

“By the grace of Almighty Allah, the mujahidin of Ansar al-Islam were able to assassin Xulhaz Mannan and Samir Mahbub Tonoy. They were pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh,” the group said in the tweet, published in both Bangla and English.

Mannan was the director of Roopban, the LGBT magazine described by the group as “a cult comprised of the gays and lesbians,” while Tonoy was a prominent activist.

The Islamist group said they had been promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh since 1988 with the help of their masters, the US crusaders and its Indian allies.

The authorities have launched an investigation into the murder of activists promoting rights of the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in the Muslim-majority South Asian country, where homosexuality is against the law.

The murders were clearly premeditated, said Asaduzzaman Mia, chief of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, adding that officers were hunting those who carried out and who planned the attack.

Mannan had been an employee at the US embassy in Dhaka, the embassy said in a statement.

Calling Mannan's death "a significant tragedy," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that reports indicating he was targeted because of his advocacy "makes his death even more tragic."

He said Mannan set "an example of dignity, courage and selflessness, and his legacy will live on in the causes that he championed."

The United States, Britain and the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the attacks, calling on the Bangladeshi government to act promptly to bring the criminals to justice.  

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.