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.