USAID employee Xulhaz Mannan, who formerly worked as a U.S. embassy protocol officer and was an editor of Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine was killed with his friend Tanay Majumder in Dhaka on April 25.
Mannan, a gay rights activist, was working for the magazine “Roopban.” He and Majumder were stabbed to death by unidentified attackers, said police. The killings are the latest in a spree of attacks targeting atheists, moderates, and foreigners.
Police say they believe radical islamists were involved in the attack, which comes a couple of days after a university professor, Rezaul Karim Siddique, was hacked to death.
“I am devastated by the brutal murder of Xulhaz Mannan and another young Bangladeshi this evening in Dhaka,” said U.S. Ambassador Marcia Bernicat in a statement condemning the murder.
“Xulhaz was more than a colleague to those of us fortunate to work with him at the U.S. Embassy. He was a dear friend,” she added.
Islamic miscreants killed today Zulhaz Mannan in Dhaka, who was editor of LGBT magazine and Gay rights activist. pic.twitter.com/8NQsezIRi6
— Hasan Shantonu (@hshantonu) April 25, 2016
The killings come just weeks after the U.S. government and various rights groups called for better protection of its citizens in the Muslim-majority nation.
A man who witnessed the attack said about five young males carried out the murders and chanted “Allahu Akbar,” or “Allah is Great” as they left the scene, he told local station Somoy TV.
The country’s government has blamed radical Muslims in Bangladesh, while ISIS claimed responsibility for some killings—including the murder of the university professor. Bangladesh officials have dismissed the claim, saying the terrorist group is not present in the country.
Amid the wave of violence against foreigners, religious minorities, and secular bloggers in Bangladesh, the U.S. government said it is considering granting refuge to some secular bloggers whose lives are threatened.
“We abhor this senseless act of violence and urge the government of Bangladesh in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders,” ambassador Bernicat said.
— Tasneem Khalil (@tasneem) April 25, 2016
A British photographer who knew Mannan and Majumder told the BBC they and other friends had set up “Roopbaan” about 5 years ago. He said the killings will most likely spread even more fear in the LGBT community, where it is already a sensitive issue.
“Until a year ago the only threat to coming out was shame of the family and having to start a new life elsewhere in Bangladesh. Now it’s one of danger,” he told the BBC.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.