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Bangladesh bans militant Islamist group suspected in blogger killings

By Andrew V. Pestano
Bangladesh bans militant Islamist group suspected in blogger killings
Police headquarters in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The country has banned the Ansarullah Bangla Team militant Islamist group accused of carrying out the murders of three secular bloggers. Photo courtesy of wikimedia.org/ R. Basu.

DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 26 (UPI) -- Bangladesh has banned the Ansarullah Bangla Team militant Islamist group accused of carrying out the murders of three secular bloggers.

The country's interior ministry announced the decision after police urged the ban. Police said preliminary investigations pointed the Ansarullah Bangla Team as involved in the murders.

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The attacks have led to protests from activists who accuse authorities of failing to protect critics of religious discrimination.

Although Bangladesh is officially secular, about 90 percent of the country's population of 160 million is Muslim, and the country has seen an increase in extreme Islamist ideologies.

Ananta Bijoy Das, 32, Washiqur Rahman, 27 and Avijit Roy, who lived in Atlanta, Ga., were all killed similarly in Bangladesh. All were secular bloggers who were attacked in busy Bangladeshi streets with sharp weapons including machetes.

The Ansarullah Bangla Team is the sixth militant Islamist group to be banned in Bangladesh.

Advocacy group PEN International recently penned a letter to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina Wajed, condemning the murders of the bloggers and calling for justice.

"Since my time in Dhaka late last year, I have seen the situation slip steadily downhill. The government, and the Prime Minister in particular, have the responsibility and the ethical obligation to stop this violence and to ensure that Bangladesh meets acceptable standards of both democracy and the rule of law, which are needed to protect the citizens' right to free expression," John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International, said in a statement.

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