Counterterrorism police have arrested an alleged operative of banned militant outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team for “directly taking part” in the murders of LGBT magazine editor Xulhaz Mannan and his friend in 2016.
Asadullah alias Fakrul alias Faisal, 25, was one of the two ABT men who stabbed and obstructed the security guard of Xulhaz's home in the capital's Kalabagan for letting the three others to hack the duo to death in a flat, police said.
Monirul Islam, chief of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit, said a CTTC team picked up Asadullah from a house in Gazipur's Tongi area around 6:15pm on Tuesday.
The arrestee is one of the 13 ABT men involved in the double murder, orchestrated by ABT operation commander Maj (sacked) Syed Ziaul Haq, Monirul said at a press briefing at the media centre of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
With Asadullah, four ABT men have so far been arrested in this connection. The three others -- Saimun alias Shahrier, Arafat Siam and Sheikh Abdullah Jayed -- had earlier given confessional statements before magistrates, CTTC officials said.
USAID staff Xulhaz, who used to work as a protocol officer of former US ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena, and his friend Khandoker Mahbub Rabby Tonoy were hacked to death inside Xulhaz's flat on April 25, 2016.
Five killers, aged between 25 and 28, were seen running away in the footage of a CCTV camera installed about 300 yards from the house.
Monirul said seven militants directly took part in the operation. Posing as couriers, five from the ABT's operational wing entered Xulhaz's house to execute the murder. Two others from its intelligence wing stayed outside.
Three members of the outfit's operational wing are still on the run, he added.
According to CTTC officials, Asadullah, a former Chhatra Shibir activist, got involved in militancy in 2015 and came to Dhaka in January the following year. At a hideout in the city's Uttar Badda, he took training on how to use machetes, guns and kill people.
During an anti-militancy drive at the hideout on February 19, 2016, Asadullah had stabbed then police inspector Bahauddin and fled away with the cop's firearm. Bahauddin identified Asadullah as his attacker seeing his photograph after arrest, Monirul said.
Police said they were hopeful of recovering the firearm.
CTTC officials claimed Asadullah had a close connection with Maj (sacked) Zia who gave him organisational directives using a secret messaging app even on January 6 this year. Zia has been on the run.
Meanwhile, a Dhaka court yesterday granted a three-day remand for Asadullah in the double murder case filed by Xulhaz's brother Minhaz Mannan.
Son of retired madrasa teacher Emdadul Haque in Jhenidah's Maheshpur upazila, Asadullah completed Dakhil (equivalent to SSC) from a local madrasa. Later, he studied at Jashore Polytechnic Institute.
Family members suspected that he was radicalised during his stay in Jashore.
YOUNGER BROTHER 'MISSING'
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Emdadul said his son had left his Jhenidah home in 2014 following an argument with him over democracy. He had been traceless since then.
“About a week days ago, Asadullah contacted my youngest son Abu Zar who went to the capital to meet him. Asadullah took his brother to his house and talked to his mother using Abu Zar's phone. Later, police arrested both of them from the house,” Emdadul said over the phone.
He said he had nothing to say about Asadullah's arrest as he took a “wrong path”. He, however, demanded release of Abu Zar, claiming him to be innocent.
Emdadul could not give detail about his son's house in Dhaka.
Mohibul Islam Khan, deputy commissioner of CTTC, denied arresting Abu Zar.
Enquired about the family's claim that the two brothers were picked up at the same time, the police official told this correspondent, “Ask his family members to find him out as they are complaining about it.”