Bangladesh police have arrested a British citizen believed to be the mastermind of the killing of two secularist bloggers earlier this year. A spokesman for the country's elite force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), said they arrested Touhidur Rahman, 58, and two other active members of Ansarullah Bangla Team, the outlawed Islamist organisatic
"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 said on Tuesday (18 August).
"He told us that he is a British citizen," said Mufti Mahmood, the head of the RAB's legal and media division, according to AFP.
Four secular bloggers have been killed in Bangladesh in the past six months. The latest, Niloy Neel, was hacked to death by a gang armed with machetes in his home on 7 August. The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) said that Neel claimed in May on Facebook that he had been followed after a public protest meeting to demand justice for the blogger Ananta Bijoy Das, who has hacked to death by machete-wielding masked thugs.
According to Imran Sarker, head of the Blogger and Online Activists Network in Bangladesh, Das was "an atheist and wrote blogs for Mukto-Mona" (free-mind) a website once moderated by Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-born US writer who was hacked to death in the capital Dhaka in February."
Das was chased down by four masked assailants before being stabbed to death. A friend of Das said the blogger received death threats from extremists for his writings. "He was on their hit list," Debasish Debu told AFP.
Avijit Roy was killed when he was returning with his wife Rafida Ahmed from the book faire held every February. He had received several death threats from Islamists for his writings on religion and science. He wrote about 10 books, including Biswasher Virus (Virus of Faith), his most well-known work.
He described himself on his Facebook page as a writer by passion: "I have profound interest in freethinking, skepticism, philosophy, scientific thoughts and human rights of people. I write in the internet blogs (mainly in Mukto-Mona) and occasionally in some newspapers covering my interests."
In March, 27-year-old blogger Washiqur Rahman, described as a "progressive freethinker", was hacked to death in the capital Dhaka. At the time of that killing, Sarker told IBTimes UK that bloggers are the most exposed and targeted by fanatics in the Muslim-majority nation because they dare to "raise their voice in the interests of society against injustice and extremism".