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Gay rights activist among two men stabbed to death in Bangladesh

Published 25/04/2016

Two men, including a gay rights activist who worked for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), have been stabbed to death in Bangladesh's capital.

Police said they believe radical Islamists were responsible for the attack in Dhaka, which occurred two days after a university professor was hacked to death. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The victims were identified as USAID employee Xulhaz Mannan, who previously worked as a US Embassy protocol officer, and his friend, Tanay Majumder.

Mr Mannan was also an editor of Bangladesh's first gay rights magazine, Roopbaan.

The US ambassador condemned the murder, just weeks after the US government and numerous rights groups called on the government of the Muslim-majority country to better protect its citizens and secure free speech.

"I am devastated by the brutal murder of Xulhaz Mannan and another young Bangladeshi this evening in Dhaka," US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat said in a statement.

"Xulhaz was more than a colleague to those of us fortunate to work with him at the US Embassy. He was a dear friend."

At least five young men took part in the killing and chanted "Allahu Akbar," or "Allah is Great" as they left the scene, according to a man who told local broadcaster Somoy TV that he had witnessed the attack.

Bangladesh's government has blamed radical Islamists in the country, although Islamic State has claimed responsibility for some of the murders, including the killing of university professor Rezaul Karim Siddique in a north-western city on Saturday.

Government officials dismissed the claim, insisting that the extremist group has no presence in the South Asian country.

Bangladesh has been hit by a wave of deadly attacks on foreigners, religious minorities and secular bloggers, raising fears that religious extremists are gaining a foothold in the country, despite its traditions of secularism and tolerance.

The US government has said it is considering granting refuge to a select number of secular bloggers facing imminent danger in Bangladesh.

"We abhor this senseless act of violence and urge the government of Bangladesh in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders," Ms Bernicat said in her statement.

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