The Daily Star, which is an English newspaper in the South Asian country, reported last week that Obama wrote to Xulhaz Mannan’s family on May 5.
“Michelle and I join you in heartbreak and grief, and we extend our deepest condolences,” wrote Obama, according to the Daily Star.
“The pain of a loss like this is indescribable,” he said. “Guided by his commitment to shaping a more just and equal future across Bangladesh, Xulhaz devoted his life to service.”
The Daily Star reported Obama wrote that Mannan’s “courageous, compassionate spirit will endure through all who knew and loved him, and in all who are inspired by the difference he made — now and for generations to come.”
A group of men hacked Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, a friend and fellow activist, to death inside an apartment building in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on April 25.
Mannan launched Roopbaan — Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine that shares its name with a local advocacy group — in 2014. He worked for the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka for eight years before joining the U.S. Agency for International Development last September.
Ansar-al-Islam, the Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the murders of Mannan and Tonoy. Islamists have killed several secular academics, writers, bloggers and members of religious minority groups in the predominantly Muslim country since early 2015.
Myles Caggins, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, confirmed to the Washington Blade on Friday that Obama “expressed his sincere condolences to the family of Xulhaz Mannan through a personal letter.”
USAID Administrator Gayle Smith offered her condolences to Mannan’s family during a May 4 meeting with USAID staffers and employees of the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh. Assistant USAID Administrator for Asia Jonathan Stivers and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal were also in attendance.
Secretary of State John Kerry less than a week before the May 4 meeting spoke with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and urged her government to thoroughly investigate the murders of Mannan and Tonoy and others for which Islamists have claimed responsibility. Biswal met with Hasina and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal while she was in Bangladesh.
The murders of Mannan and Tonoy highlighted the anti-LGBT violence and discrimination that is rampant in Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi police last month arrested a militant in connection with the attack, but activists with whom the Blade has spoken have expressed doubt their country’s government will thoroughly investigate the murders. They also said Hasina’s administration will use them to further crackdown on freedom of assembly and other basic human rights.