Police in Bangladesh have arrested a suspected Islamist militantover the hacking death of a US blogger whose writings on religion angered hardliners.
Deputy police commissioner Masudur Rahman said the man, who was named as 24-year-old Arafat Rahman, was being held in connection with the 2015 machete attack on Avijit Roy and his wife. Mr Roy was fatally injured and his wife seriously hurt, on their way home from a book fair in Dhaka.
Police said they believed the suspect was a member of the Al-Qaeda-inspired group, Ansarullah Bangla Team. The organisation has been blamed for numerous attacks, including a July 2016 assault on a restaurant in the city’s diplomatic quarter that left 22 people dead, most of them foreigners.
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Reuters said police revealed they had arrested the suspect after analysing CCTV footage. They said he was detained by officers of the counterterrorism police unit on the outskirts of the capital on Friday night.
“In the primary interrogation, he confessed his involvement in the killing of four other secular activists,” said Mr Rahman, the senior police officer.
The killing of Mr Roy, an atheist US citizen of Bangladeshi origin, sent shockwaves across the country and underscored the threat of Islamist extremists in the Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people.
It was one of a series of deadly attacks targeting bloggers, foreigners and religious minorities.
The news agency said police believe the Ansarullah Bangla Team militant group is behind the murders of more than a dozen secular bloggers and LGBTQ-rights activists. They believe a sacked army major, who is still at large, was the leader of the group and masterminded the killings.
Al-Qaeda and Isis have also claimed responsibility for a series of killings over the past few years, including that of Mr Roy, whose killing was marked by protests by hundreds of people who took to the streets to mourn his death.
At the time of his murder, his family said he had received threats following the publication of articles promoting secular views, science and social issues on his Bengali-language blog, Mukto-mona, or Free Mind.
He defended atheism in a Facebook post, calling it a “rational concept to oppose any unscientific and irrational belief”.
The government has denied the presence of foreign extremist groups, choosing to blame domestic militants instead. But security experts say the scale and sophistication of the 2016 café attack suggested links to a wider network. Police and army commandos have killed more than 60 suspected militants and arrested hundreds since that incident.
This was the second arrest in a week relating to the killing of Mr Roy. Previously officers detained a suspected militant identified as 25-year-old Mojammel Hossain.