Witnesses said the youths, clad in t-shirts and jeans, who carried out the murders at a building on Lake Circus Road on Monday afternoon were seen carrying laptop bags.
The assailants had also attacked and injured a security guard of the six-storey building with sharp weapons right before they barged into Xulhaz’s apartment and hacked him and his theatre activist friend Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy to death.
He said Momtaz had managed to snatch the bag from them.
After visiting the crime scene, DMP Commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia told reporters that they found the ‘important evidence’ from that bag.
One police official only said they found several items including a mobile phone in the bag. But no-one from the law-enforcing agency would give further details.
ASI Momtaz has been admitted to a private hospital and the injured security guard, Parvez Molla, to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
The attackers had firearms with them, Molla told reporters at DMCH, but they murdered USAID Programme Officer Xulhaz and Tonoy with machetes.
Xulhaz, a cousin to former foreign minister Dipu Moni, also edited ‘Roopbaan’, the first magazine in Bangladesh that advocates the rights of LGBT.
Witnesses said the attackers had fled the scene after firing from their guns and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (Allah is great).
Police could not immediately say who carried out the attack. But Monday’s killings bore a chilling similarity to those of secular bloggers and online activists in the recent past.
Parvez Molla said Xulhaz may have anticipated the motive of the three attackers, who came along the guard, because he had tried to close the door of his apartment, on the first floor, right after seeing the youths.
But after injuring Molla, the youths barged into the flat and killed Xulhaz and Tonoy on the spot.
One of the witnesses, a woman, asking not to be named, told bdnews24.com she had seen five to seven youths leaving the house. “Some others chased them. They fled shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ through the Tentultala playground.”
She said she saw the youths, carrying the laptop bags, firing from the guns while running away.
Police said the attackers in some of the previous murders of writers, teachers, bloggers and online activists in the past few years were also seen carrying machetes in bags.
In every case, the security agencies suspected involvement of militants, but police have only solved the three-year-old murder case of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider until now.
The main target of Monday’s attack was Xulhaz Mannan, DMP Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia said. “It was a targeted killing.”
Abul Kalam Azad who directs elite police unit RAB’s intelligence wing also told bdnews24.com that the ‘murders were premeditated’.
The killing of Xulhaz, who had also worked as an assistant protocol officer at the US embassy in Dhaka, has prompted US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat to ask the government in the “strongest terms” to apprehend the criminals.
However, no case was started with Kalabagan police until Monday midnight.
The police station’s Operator Shyamal Chandra Haldar told bdnews24.com the senior officers of the station had not returned yet.
“They are still at the scene. That’s why no case has been started until now.”