The Bangladeshi branch of the al Qaeda, Ansar-al Islam, on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the murder of a gay rights activist and his friend in Dhaka. The banned group said on Twitter that they targeted Xulhaz Mannan, who worked as a senior editor with the country’s first LGBT magazine Roopbaan, and his friend Tanay Majumder because they were “pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh”, The Associated Press reported.

Mannan, who also worked for the United States Agency for International Development, and Majumder were hacked to death in the Bangladeshi capital on Monday. Armed assailants posing as employees of a courier company had entered a flat and killed them, the Dhaka police said. This came two days after a university professor was murdered near his home in the north-western city of Rajshahi on Saturday. These killings come in the wake of a spike in the number of murders of secular writers and activists in Bangladesh over the last year.