Uganda gay rights activist David Kato killed

David Kato spoke to the BBC in 2010

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David Kato, a Ugandan gay rights campaigner who sued a local newspaper which outed him as homosexual, has been beaten to death, activists have said.

Police have confirmed the death and say they have arrested one suspect.

Uganda's Rolling Stone newspaper published the photographs of several people it said were gay, including Mr Kato, with the headline "Hang them".

US President Barack Obama was quoted as saying he was "deeply saddened" to learn of Mr Kato's death.

His Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged authorities to investigate and prosecute the killers.

'Iron bar killings'

The BBC's Joshua Mmali, in Kampala, says it is unclear whether the death is linked to the Rolling Stone campaign but police have said there is no connection between Mr Kato's activism and his death.

Start Quote

We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality, not for the public to attack them”

End Quote Giles Muhame Rolling Stone editor

The police say that though they have arrested one suspect, the main suspect - who they say lived with Mr Kato - remains on the run.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda, with punishments of 14 years in prison. An MP recently tried to increase the penalties to include the death sentence in some cases.

There has been a recent spate of "iron-bar killings" in Mukono, where Mr Kato lived, in which people have been assaulted with pieces of metal.

Witnesses have told the BBC that a man entered Mr Kato's home near Kampala and beat him to death before leaving.

His Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) group said Mr Kato had been receiving death threats since his name, photograph and address were published by Rolling Stone last year.

Frank Mugisha, the group's executive director, told the BBC's Network Africa programme he was "devastated" on hearing the news from New York.

"He was killed by someone who came in his house with a hammer, meaning anyone else could be the next target."

Mr Mugisha said Mr Kato had recently been concerned about the threats he had received.

'Profoundly saddened'

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for a swift investigation into his death.

"David Kato's death is a tragic loss to the human rights community," said HRW's Maria Burnett.

He had campaigned against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which appears to have been quietly dropped after provoking a storm of international criticism when it was mooted in 2009.

In a statement, Hillary Clinton said she was "profoundly saddened" by Mr Kato's death.

"This crime is a reminder of the heroic generosity of the people who advocate for and defend human rights on behalf of the rest of us - and the sacrifices they make," she said.

"And as we reflect on his life, it is also an occasion to reaffirm that human rights apply to everyone, no exceptions, and that the human rights of [LGBT] individuals cannot be separated from the human rights of all persons."

'Extra caution'

Following a complaint by Mr Kato and three others, a judge in November ordered Rolling Stone to stop publishing the photographs of people it said were homosexual, saying it contravened their right to privacy.

Several activists said they had been attacked after their photographs were published.

Mr Mugisha called on the Ugandan government to step up security for gay people.

"We're strongly asking every gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender person in Uganda to watch out for their security … [they] should take extra caution."

Rolling Stone editor Giles Muhame told Reuters news agency he condemned the murder and that the paper had not wanted gays to be attacked.

"There has been a lot of crime, it may not be because he is gay," he said.

"We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality, not for the public to attack them."

"Iron-bar killings" were common in Uganda when former leader Idi Amin was in power in the 1970s.

A rapid response police team has been sent to the area and several suspects have been arrested over the killings.

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