Main suspect in Xulhaz-Tonoy murders caught, police say

Police say they have arrested one of the main suspects behind the killing of LGBT rights activist Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Mahbub Tonoy.

Published : 16 Jan 2019, 05:41 AM
Updated : 17 Jan 2019, 05:25 AM

Asadullah was caught during a raid by the counter-terror police in Gazipur’s Tongi 6pm Tuesday, said Md Obaidur Rahman, additional deputy commission of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

The 25-year-old is a member of Ansarullah Bangla Team, banned militant outfit. He used to operate his militant activities using fake names including Fakhrul, Faisal, Jakir and Sadik, police said.

On Wednesday, he was remanded to three days of police custody. 

On Apr 25 of 2016, a group of assailants armed with machetes broke into Xulhaz’s apartment in Dhaka’s Kalabagan and hacked him to death along with Tonoy. Their murders took place amid a series of executions carried out by extremists across the country that year.

Xulhaz, a 35-year-old programme officer with the USAID, was a cousin of current Education Minister Dipu Moni. He also worked as a protocol officer of former US Ambassador Dan Mozena.

Xulhaz also edited ‘Roopban’, the first magazine in the country advocating for LGBT rights. Tonoy, 26, was involved with the theatre group Lok Natyadal. He worked as a drama trainer for children at an organisation called 'Peoples Theatre'

Md Monirul Islam, who heads the counter-terror police unit, held a briefing at the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s media centre following Asadullah's arrest.

Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy

“There were seven people who took part in the killings. Of them, five went inside the building. Meaning, the killing mission involved five. Asadullah was among those five men.”

Asadullah’s arrest means four suspected attackers were now under arrested over the killings. Three have provided confessional testimonies in court.

Besides Asadullah, the others who have been arrested are Shams aka Siam aka Sajjad, Saimon aka Shahriar, Abdullah aka Jubair aka Zaid aka Jabed aka Abu Umair.

Son of one Emdadul Haque, Asadullah hails from Madanpur of Jhenaidah’s Maheshpur Upazila. He had been living in a house near Tongi’s Morkun graveyard for few days.

The killer’s family has links to Jamaat-e-Islami, said counter-terror chief Monirul. “Asadullah was a member of (Jamaat’s student wing) Shibir before he joined the Ansarullah Bangla Team.”

“He graduated from Jessore Polytechnic Institute after studying at Madabpur Dakhil Madrasa. His father was a teacher at Madhabpur Islamia Madrasa and a rukon of the Jamaat-e-Islami.”

Asadullah joined the Ansarullah Bangla team with the help of Shariful Mukul Rana, who is the prime suspect for the murder of blogger Avijit Roy.

He was given the pseudo name of ‘Faisal’ at Ansarullah Bangla Team. He began training as a militant at a house in North Badda in 2016. Mukul Rana was later killed in an encounter with law enforcers at Dhaka’s Khilgaon.

On the day of the killing, Asadullah came to Dhaka from Tongi. There was a seven-member team and of them five entered Xulhaz’s apartment building at Kalabagan.

Of the five, three pretended to be delivery men carrying a fake parcel and went up the stairs to the flat.

Asadullah was one of the two men who wounded the apartment’s security guard Parvez Mollah using machetes, said police on Wednesday.

A patrolling police officer, ASI Momtaz, had snatched a bag from one of the assailants while trying to stop them from fleeing. A pistol and a shutter gun were found inside the bag along with ammunition and a cell phone.

A case was filed with the Kalabagan police by Xulhaz’s brother Minhaz Mannan against six unidentified suspects on the night of the incident.

Sub-Inspector Shamim Ahmed had also filed a case against the assailants over the attack on SI Momtaz and the weapons that had been recovered in the process.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher