Assailants of LGBT rights activist Xulhaz, his friend were well-trained to kill, says forensic expert

The killers of gay-rights activist Xulhaz Mannan and his theatre activist friend Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were trained to target specific areas of the body to cause immediate death, says the forensic doctor who conducted the autopsies.

Published : 26 April 2016, 08:11 AM
Updated : 27 April 2016, 12:55 PM

“It’s a handiwork of trained killers. They knew very well how to ensure immediate death,” said Dhaka Medical College Hospital’s (DMCH) forensic expert Sohel Mahmud.

The country’s first LGBT magazine editor Xulhaz was killed inside his residence in capital Dhaka along with his friend Tonoy.

Witnesses and police said that five to seven people barged into Xulhaz’s apartment on Monday afternoon.

The machete-wielding attackers targeted their heads—the same way secular bloggers and online activists were killed in the recent past in Bangladesh.

Police’s initial report said that the two were hacked on several areas of the head and also on neck and chin.

“No one can survive such injuries. There were repeated slashes on the same place, which cracked open the skull and inflicted severe injuries on the brain. Tonoy’s spinal cord was also broken,” said Mahmud, an assistant professor at the DMCH’s Forensic Department.

He said that at least three repeated attacks on the same place caused the fatal brain injuries. “The killers were well aware of what they were doing and they did it intentionally.”

Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy

Police report said that there were two six-inch long wounds on the back of Xulhaz’s head and on his face. Slash wounds were found on other areas of the head.

A deep cut wound was found on his left hand, which suggests retaliation by the LGBT rights activist, who worked as a programme officer for the USAID.

Xulhaz, who edited the ‘Roopbaan’ magazine that advocates gay rights, had also worked as an assistant protocol officer at the US embassy in Dhaka.

Witnesses said the attackers, clad in T-shirts and jeans, fled after firing from their guns, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’.

The attackers also injured a security guard of the building, Parvez Molla. A patrol police officer was also injured while trying to stop them.

Police said that one-foot long and four inches deep slash wound stretching from the head to the back was found on Tonoy’s body.

Another five-inch long wound was found on the top of his head, which cracked open the skull.

Monday’s killings bore a chilling similarity with the murders of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, writer Avijit Roy, online activists Oyasiqur Rahman Babu and Niladri Chatterjee Niloy, publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan.

All of them were murdered in the same manner— machetes targeting the heads to confirm immediate death.

“I have conducted all the autopsies expect on Sylhet’s Ananta Bijoy. The pattern is same in all of these cases,” DMCH forensic expert Sohel Mahmud told

Investigators in all these killings pointed fingers at religious fanatics.

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Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher