Bangladesh bans Islamist group after blogger killings


Bangladesh has banned an Islamist militant group suspected of involvement in the murders of atheist bloggers that sparked protests in Dhaka and outrage around the world, an official said.

The Home Ministry's move to outlaw the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) comes almost a week after police asked the government to ban the group, suspecting it of being behind the deaths of three bloggers this year. Police had also earlier charged ABT members with the 2013 murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.

"The (junior home minister) today signed a government order, outlawing the militant organisation Ansarullah Bangla Team," said Sharif Mahmud, a ministry spokesman.

A police spokesman said last week that initial police findings implicated ABT in the recent killings of bloggers including Ananta Bijoy Das, who was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers on his way to work.

The 33-year-old was the third secular blogger to be killed in the Muslim-majority nation since February when Bangladeshi-born US citizen Avijit Roy, a writer and moderator of a blog site, was hacked to death in the capital Dhaka.

Fellow writers said Das was on a hit-list drawn up by militants who were behind Roy's killing. No one has yet been charged over Das's death, but his brother has filed a criminal case saying he was murdered by an "extremist fanatic group". Hours after Das's murder, a group called Ansar Al-Islam said on Twitter that Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) was responsible for the killing and warned of more to come.

Bangladesh is an officially secular country but more than 90 per cent of its 160 million people are Muslim.

ABT is the sixth Islamist militant group to be banned in the country, which has seen a rise in attacks by religious extremists in recent years. AQIS previously claimed responsibility for the 26 February attack in Dhaka that killed Roy and also badly injured his wife. An Islamist has been arrested over his murder but not formally charged.   (AFP)

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