Fourth Bangladeshi blogger hacked to death

Fourth Bangladeshi blogger hacked to death

The wife of murdered Bangladeshi blogger Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen-name Niloy Neel, weeps at their home in Dhaka following his slaying on Friday. (AFP Photo)
The wife of murdered Bangladeshi blogger Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen-name Niloy Neel, weeps at their home in Dhaka following his slaying on Friday. (AFP Photo)

DHAKA — A gang armed with machetes hacked a secular blogger to death at his home in Dhaka on Friday, sparking protests in the capital over the fourth such murder in Bangladesh this year.

Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen-name Niloy Neel, was killed after the gang forced their way into his apartment, according to the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, which was alerted to the attack by a witness.

"They entered his room in the fifth floor and shoved his friend aside and then hacked him to death. He was a listed target of the Islamist militants," the network's head, Imran H Sarker, told AFP.

Police confirmed that Chakrabarti, 40, had been murdered by a group of half a dozen people at his home in the capital's Goran neighbourhood who had pretended they were looking for somewhere to rent.

"Two of them then took him to a room and then slaughtered him there," Muntashirul Islam, a deputy police commissioner, told AFP.

"His wife was in the flat but she was confined to another room."

Mahbubur Rahman, another deputy commissioner, told reporters that Chakrabarti's wife had been heard crying out "Save us! Save us!" but no one responded.

He is the fourth secular blogger to be killed in the Muslim-majority country 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 27-year-old Washiqur Rahman who was hacked to death in Dhaka in March and Ananta Bijoy Das who was attacked in May by a group wielding machetes in Sylhet.

In a Facebook post on May 15, Chakrabarti said he had been followed by two young men after taking part in a protest over Das's murder.

He said he went to report the incident to police, but officers refused to register the complaint and instead told him to leave the country.

Most secular bloggers have gone into hiding, often using pseudonyms in their posts. And at least seven have fled abroad, according to a Canada-based atheist blogger Farid Ahmed, who helped several of them.

Activist groups say they fear Islamist hit squads have lists with the bloggers' real names and addresses.

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.

"He was critical against religions and wrote against Islamist, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist fundamentalism," Mohiuddin, who is now based in Berlin, told AFP by phone.

Police 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 of the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, who was among the protesters.

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," said David Griffiths, the rights group's South Asia research director.

"The price for holding opinions and expressing them freely must not be death. The Bangladeshi authorities now have an urgent duty to make clear that no more attacks like this will be tolerated."

Bangladesh banned the hardline Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) following Das's murder after facing accusations that too little was being done to stop such attacks.

In a recent petition 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".

Bangladesh is officially a secular country, but more than 90% of its 160 million people are Muslim.

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