Bangladesh has banned on Monday a national group suspected of killing three secular bloggers and making threats to writers.
“The [Junior Home Minister] today signed a government order, outlawing the militant organization Ansarullah Bangla Team,” Sharif Mahmud, a Home Ministry spokesman, told AFP.
The Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) has threatened and killed bloggers, AP reports.
The victims were assaulted by attackers wielding sharp weapons including machetes. Their grisly deaths elicited domestic and international concern about the rise of violence in Bangladesh.
The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a government order banning ABT, which was confirmed by the Junior Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal to bdnews24.com.
Kamal said the decision was made under the anti-terrorism law, the Associated Press reports.
“Police have asked the home ministry to ban the ABT,” Dhaka police spokesman Jahangir Sarker told AFP last week. He added that “primary assessments” had implicated ABT in the recent killings of bloggers including Ananta Bijoy Das.
A letter signed by more than 150 international writers coming together with PEN International and English PEN seeks justice for the killers and demands “the authorities do all in their power to provide protection and support to bloggers and other writers at risk in Bangladesh.”
Bloggers Avijit Roy, a US citizen of Bangladeshi origin, and Washiqur Rahman were murdered in Dhaka in February and March respectively, while Ananta Bijoy Das was killed in northeastern Bangladesh earlier this month.
Last week AFP reported that Das’s fellow writers indicated he was on a hit list compiled by the same militants who were responsible for Roy’s killing.
A group on Twitter claimed that Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) was responsible for Das’s murder and made further threats. AQIS had previously claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Roy and injured his wife, AFP reported.
A police report said ABT follows Al Qaeda and has been active in Bangladesh since 2008, but has extended its influence since 2013, when it allegedly killed blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in Dhaka, AP reports.
The group’s alleged leader Mufti Jasim Uddin Rahmani is currently in jail awaiting trial for Haider’s murder.
Sources from Bangladeshi security forces have told bdnews24.com that currently 14 groups are under watch.
ABT is the sixth “militant organisation” banned by the Bangladeshi administration.
“The government will do whatever is necessary to keep the country free of militants and terrorists,” State Minister Kamal said.
The Bangladeshi government has banned five outfits since 2005: Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI), Shahadat Al Hikmat and Hizb ut Tahrir.
Bangladesh is an officially secular country with a primarily Muslim population.