Xulhaz killing suspect held in Kushtia | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 16, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:37 AM, May 16, 2016

Xulhaz killing suspect held in Kushtia

Cops say he supplied arms to killers

Police have arrested a man in Kushtia who according to the law enforcers had given a firearm to the killers of USAID staff Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Tonoy.

Arrestee Shariful Islam Shihab, 37, is an operative of Ansarullah Bangla Team and he supplied the homemade gun, one of the two firearms left behind by the killers in a bag while fleeing the scene, claimed Additional Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Monirul Islam.

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Counter Terrorism Unit of the DMP arrested Shihab at Choy Rastar Mor in Kushtia sadar Saturday night with the help of Kushtia police.

Primarily, he did not admit to being any of the five people who directly took part in the killing on April 25, said Monirul, also the chief of DMP's Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit.

Police suspect that he might have been in the backup team deployed nearby, Monirul said at a press briefing at the DMP media centre yesterday.

He also supplied firearms to ABT men in other such operations, police claimed.

"At least three others, including the leader of the killing operation, have been identified. We are trying to arrest them," he added.

Shihab used to maintain communication with the leader, police claimed, not disclosing the name of the leader.

USAID staff Xulhaz, who used to work as a protocol officer of former US ambassador Dan Mozena, and his friend Khandoker Mahbub Rabby Tonoy were hacked to death inside Xulhaz' flat in Kalabagan in the capital.

At least five killers were seen running away in the footage of a CCTV camera installed about 300 yards from his home. According to witnesses, the youths were aged between 25 and 28. 

Monirul said the ABT members accomplished the killings with directions from their superior leaders for, what he claimed, Xulhaz and Tonoy promoting the rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and "spreading confusion about Islam".

Not only Xulhaz, the editor of “Roopbaan”, the country's only known magazine for the LGBT community, Tonoy was also their target as he convened the Rangdhanu Jatra at Shahbagh to celebrate Pahela Baishakh, Monirul claimed.

"They attacked the duo being confirmed of their presence [in the flat]," Monirul said, adding that they succeeded in the mission after two months of preparation.  

A top level Detective Branch official, however, said Shihab was in Kushtia on that day. Alongside supplying firearm, he accommodated the killers as they rushed to Kushtia for cover after the gruesome murders.

Replying to a query, Monirul said ABT men were behind the double murder and murder of the Jagannath University student Nazim Uddin but they were yet to be sure of the involvement of the individuals in common.

Monirul, replying to another question about intelligence agencies' failure to prevent the double murder, said it was very difficult to prevent the attacks of sleeper cells of militants.

Monirul said neither Xulhaz nor his friends shared with them about any threats.

"We could not realise that he [Xulhaz] would be targeted for his activities," he added.  

A Dhaka Court granted three-day remand for Shihab after police sought a 10-day remand.

During hearing on the remand, Shihab told the court that he was in Kushtia before and after the incident and he was not involved in the murders.

Police said Shihab joined banned Islamic group Harkat-ul Jihad during his stay in Moulvibazar several years ago. As the militant outfit turned inactive, he started working with ABT since 2015.

Kushtia police started a manhunt in the region to arrest Shihab's close aides, sources claimed.

The Daily Star could not independently verify the police's claim.

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