DHAKA - The publisher of an atheist writer killed earlier this year by suspected Islamists was hacked to death in Bangladesh Saturday, hours after two secular bloggers and another publisher were also attacked.
Blood stains are seen at the scene of an attack on Bangladesh publisher Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury Tutul, blogger Tarik Rahim and writer Ranadipam Basu in an office in Dhaka on Oct 31, 2015.
Both attacks in the capital Dhaka -- the latest in a wave of violence targeting secular activists blamed on a banned Islamist group -- followed the same pattern, with the assailants attacking the men with machetes and cleavers, leaving them in a pool of blood and padlocking their offices from the outside as they left, police said.
Faisal Arefin Dipan, 43, was killed in his third-floor office in central Dhaka, his father Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq, a noted intellectual and writer, told AFP.
"I rushed to his office at Aziz Market and broke the padlock. And I saw him lying upside down in a massive pool of blood. They slaughtered his neck. He is dead," he said.
Police inspector Mozammel Haq also confirmed Dipan's death.
Haq told AFP that he became worried about his son after he heard of the earlier attack that left publisher Ahmedur Rashid Tutul and bloggers Ranadipam Basu and Tareq Rahim severely injured.
"He published the books of Avijit Roy. They also attacked other publishers of Roy but only my son died," Haq said.
Atheist blogger Roy was killed in February -- the first death in the wave of violence against secular writers in Bangladesh. The total death toll now stands at five.
- Pool of blood -
In the first incident Saturday, three armed men posing as shoppers entered the offices of Shuddhaswar publishing house at 3pm (0900 GMT), police said.
"Once inside, they started hacking Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, the publisher of a slain atheist writer, and secular blogger Ranadipam Basu and Tareq Rahim with machetes and cleavers indiscriminately and shot at Rahim from a firearm," said Dhaka police deputy commissioner Wahidul Islam.
Activists described the third victim, Rahim, 30, as a young secular blogger and poet.
"They then padlocked the office from the outside and left the three in a pool of blood. Our officers broke the door and rescued them after getting emergency calls," he said.
The three men were in hospital and one was in a critical condition.
Basu, 50, posted a short Facebook status immediately after the attack: "They hacked us, me Tutul and Tareq."
No group had claimed responsibility for the attacks but they were similar to other assaults on the country's secular opinion-formers, Islam said.
Police say the Islamist militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) were behind the previous attacks.
- Government failure -
Hundreds of activists held an impromptu march in Dhaka Saturday evening, slamming the government for failing to protect the country's secular writers.
"We're stunned. One after another secular writer and bloggers have been silenced and murdered. Yet the government has failed to protect them," said Imran Sarker, who heads a secular bloggers group.
Asif Mohiuddin, a Berlin-based Bangladeshi atheist blogger who survived a machete attack by Islamist militants in December 2013, also berated the government for not doing enough.
"The country's bloggers have sought protection from the government and yet there have been no visible efforts to ensure their security," he told AFP by phone.
He said about a dozen secular writers have fled the country following threats from the Islamists and the latest attacks would prompt more to do so or go into hiding.
Both Tutul and Dipan, who owned Jagritee Publishers based in Dhaka's Aziz Supermarket, a hub for alternative and small publishers, published books by Roy and several other young secular writers.
Roy, a US national of Bangladeshi origin, was hacked to death outside a book fair in Dhaka in February. His wife, herself a secular blogger, was also seriously injured in the incident.
Tensions are high in Bangladesh following the recent killings of an Italian aid worker and a Japanese farmer, who were shot dead in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.
The bombing of the capital's main Shiite shrine last weekend, which killed one person and wounded dozens more, has further raised concerns for minorities living in the mainly Muslim but officially secular nation.
That attack was also claimed by IS jihadists, but the government responded by denying that the extremist group was active in Bangladesh, and instead rounded up dozens of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's opponents.