A group affiliated with al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for the killing this week of a secular blogger in Bangladesh, according to a U.S. terrorist monitoring group.
The SITE Intelligence Group said Ansar-al-Islam, a Bangladesh branch of al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent, released a statement claiming responsibility for Wednesday's killing of blogger and postgraduate law student Nazimuddin Samad. According to SITE, the al-Qaida-linked group said its members carried out the attack in the capital, Dhaka, because Samad had "abused God."
The Reuters news agency said it was not able to verify the authenticity of the message but cited the monitoring group as saying it had provided a link to its digital signature as verification.
Samad was hacked with machetes and shot by motorcycle-riding assailants as he was returning from class at Jagannath University. Police say no one has been arrested, but that people heard the attackers shouting “Allahu Akbar” ("God is great") as they fled the scene. The United States condemned the attack as "barbaric."
Dhaka police believe Samad was targeted for his outspoken views, which often criticized radical Islam and promoted secularism in the Muslim-majority country.
People carry portraits of student activist Nazimuddin Samad as they attend a rally to demand arrest of three motorcycle-riding assailants who hacked and shot Samad to death, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 8, 2016.
String of attacks
International defenders of freedom of expression have denounced Samad's killing, which followed a string of attacks and death threats against secular bloggers.
Rights groups accuse the Bangladesh government of not doing enough to stop the attacks. At least six bloggers and a secular publisher have been killed since 2013.
In an interview with VOA’s Bangla service, Sumit Galhotra of the Committee to Protect Journalists said, “One by one, the critical voices are being silenced forever,” at a time that “the country needs these voices more than ever.” He said Bangladesh is polarized over the debate about “the place of Islam as state religion and having Islam featured prominently in the Constitution,” plus other issues.
“With every passing death, the government continues to watch on, and we are not seeing any indication that government is taking any steps to address this violence,” Galhotra said.
Bloggers Bappaditya Basu and Vaskar Abedin in Dhaka told VOA's Bangla service that they believe the government has the power to stop these killings but is not willing to address the situation and punish those responsible.
Following previous killings, some police and law enforcement authorities have suggested that the bloggers are responsible for the violence. Basu and Abedin said this sends the wrong signal to the perpetrators.
Hundreds of students at the university where Samad studied protested his slaying, demanding the prompt arrest of the killers.
He was on a hit list of 84 atheist bloggers that a radical Islamist group compiled and sent to Bangladesh’s Interior Ministry.
VOA's Bangla service contributed to this report.