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Bangladesh Arrests Three Men Suspected of Killing Atheist Bloggers

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Authorities in Bangladesh have arrested three suspected Islamic extremists carrying out the murders of two atheist bloggers, including a British national who authorities say was the “main planner” behind the attacks.

Spokesmen for the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the country’s elite security force, told Agence France-Presse that they had arrested 58-year-old Touhidur Rahman and two other “active members” of the recently banned organization Ansarullah Bangla Team.

The trio have been accused of killing Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das, two of the four bloggers hacked to death with machetes this year in what has become an alarming pattern of violent backlash against secular voices in the South Asian nation. A hit list of 84 bloggers compiled by Islamic fundamentalist groups in 2013 continues to do the rounds, and the latest murder — that of Hindu writer Niloy Neel — took place 10 days ago.

The Bangladesh government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been criticized for failing to adequately protect secular bloggers and activists, but Tuesday’s arrests may provide hope that those responsible will be prosecuted.

“We’ve arrested them in the capital today,” RAB spokesman Major Maksudul Alam told AFP. “We can confirm that Rahman is a Bangladesh origin British citizen. He is the main planner of the attacks on Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das.”

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Write to Rishi Iyengar at rishi.iyengar@timeasia.com