Al Jazeera speaks to Professor Ali Riaz about recent killings in Bangladesh and the groups that might be behind them.
Dhaka, Bangladesh – The family of a man arrested for the murder of a secular blogger in April has told Al Jazeera he could not have been involved in the killing because he was in another city at the time.
Family members of Rashedun Nabi Bhuiyan, also known as Tipu, also said law-enforcement officials picked him up as early as six weeks after the murder of Nazimuddin Samad, not on Sunday as police said.
On Monday, Monirul Islam, head of the country’s counterterrorism unit, said Bhuiyan was arrested on Sunday evening at the Sayedabad bus station in the capital Dhaka, in a joint raid involving three police units.
Islam said Bhuiyan had led a team of five men who hacked and shot Samad to death at a traffic stop in Dhaka in April.
Police also alleged that Bhuiyan is a leader of the banned Ansar al-Islam group, an organisation affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent.
In a string of targeted attacks claimed by members of the group, Samad was the sixth secular writer or publisher to be hacked to death since February 2015 in the country.
Islam said since his arrest, Bhuiyan had admitted to his role in the murder, and provided the names of his four accomplices.
Bhuiyan also provided information on the murder of two LGBT activists – Xulhaz Manan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy – in Dhaka on April 28, he said.
Bhuiyan’s family told Al Jazeera on the night of May 19, about 15 uniformed and plainclothed police officers, as well as paramilitary officers, stormed their house in Nangalkot, in the district of Comilla, and took him away.
“My husband was in the bedroom. They showed me a photo and asked me: ‘Do you know that person?’ I replied: ‘Yes, he is my husband’.
“My husband then came out of the room. He was allowed to change his clothes and then they tied his hands and blindfolded him.
“I went outside the house and urged them not to take him away and one of the police officials in uniform told me that my husband was a criminal who had killed two bloggers.”
The next morning, Bhuiyan’s family members said, they went to the local police station to find out where he was detained, but police denied knowledge of the raid, Tasnim said, adding Bhuiyan’s father and uncle were also refused when they asked to file a police report.
Bhuiyan’s family claimed he was at home in Comilla at the time of Samad’s murder.
“I remember we were watching a television report on the blogger killing. He told me: ‘Another blogger is killed. Where we are heading towards?'” said Tasnim.
“My husband did not leave Comilla during March and April,” she said.
Rejecting the family claims, Deputy Commissioner Masudur Rahman, spokesperson of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said police picked up Bhuiyan on Sunday in Dhaka.
“The allegations made by the family are not true,” he told Al Jazeera. “When killers commit any offence, they try to escape the situation.”
The family said in the subsequent months after the May arrest they had met authorities many times, but no one had provided any information on Bhuiyan’s whereabouts.
Bhuiyan’s uncle Sadek Bhuiyan, local member of the ruling Awami League Party, told Al Jazeera that police officials told him the operation was carried out by members of Dhaka’s counter-terrorism unit.
Reports of secret detentions targeting opposition activists and alleged criminals have become increasingly common in Bangladesh.
Following a July attack on an upmarket Dhaka restaurant, where fighters claiming links to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group killed 20 guests, the Bangladesh government has ramped up its counter-terrorism activities.
Since then, there have been no further attacks in the country.