A gang armed with machetes hacked a secular blogger to death at his home in Dhaka Friday, sparking protests in the capital and calls for action from human rights groups over the fourth such murder in Bangladesh this year.
Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen-name Niloy Neel, was killed after the gang broke into his apartment, according to the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, which was alerted to the attack by a witness.
"We are speechless. He was demanding justice for the killing of other bloggers," said Imran Sarker, head of a network of activists and bloggers.
Police confirmed Chakrabarti had been murdered in the capital's Goran neighbourhood by a group of four people who had pretended they were looking for somewhere to rent.
“Two of them then took him to a room and slaughtered him there," Deputy Police Commissioner Muntashirul Islam told AFP, adding that his wife had been "confined to another room" during the attack.
Asha Moni, wife of the slain blogger, later told reporters that one of the young men attacked him shouting "Allahu Akbar (God is Great)".
Moni said she pleaded with the assailants not to kill her husband but the attackers dragged her to a veranda and confined her there, according to online newspaper bdnews24.com.
The Bangladesh branch of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), Ansar al-Islam, claimed the killing and warned of more to come, according to monitoring group SITE.
Chakrabarti is the fourth secular blogger to be killed in the Muslim-majority nation since February, when Bangladeshi-born US citizen Avijit Roy was hacked to death in Dhaka. Roy's wife was also badly wounded in the attack.
The other victims include Ananta Bijoy, Das who was attacked by a group wielding machetes on May 13 as he headed to work in Sylhet, and 27-year-old Washiqur Rahman who was hacked to death in Dhaka in March.
Most secular bloggers have either gone into hiding, often using pseudonyms in their posts, or have fled abroad.
Bloggers in hiding
Activist groups say they fear that Islamist hit squads have lists that contain the real names and addresses of the bloggers.
Asif Mohiuddin, another blogger who himself survived an attack in Bangladesh in 2013, described Chakrabarti as an atheist "free thinker" whose posts appeared on several sites.
Police meanwhile said Chakrabarti had been one of the organisers of the large-scale protests in 2013 against Islamists convicted of war crimes dating back to the 1971 conflict when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan.
Immediately after the murder, hundreds of secular activists joined a protest march in the city's Shahbagh Square, which was also the venue for the 2013 demonstrations.
"We're protesting a culture of impunity in Bangladesh. One after another blogger is being killed and yet there is no action to stop these murderers," said Sarker, who was among the protestors.
Amnesty International said the government had to do more to stop what it called "this spate of savage killings".
"There is little doubt that these especially brutal killings are designed to sow fear and to have a chilling effect on free speech. This is unacceptable," said David Griffiths, the London-based rights group's South Asia research director.
Bangladesh banned the hardline Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) following Das's murder in May.
In a recent petition addressed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, authors including Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood called on her government "to do all in their power to ensure that the tragic events... are not repeated, and to bring the perpetrators to justice".
Bangladesh is an officially secular country, but more than 90 percent of its 160 million people are Muslim.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2015-08-07