A masked gang wielding cleavers and machetes hacked an atheist blogger to death in Bangladesh on Tuesday. It was the third such deadly attack on independent writers in the south Asian nation in the past three months.
Ananta Bijoy Das, 33, was on his way to his job at a bank when at least four men attacked him Tuesday morning in the northeastern city of Sylhet.
Das died on the spot of serious injuries inflicted during the assault, Faisal Mahmood, the police chief of Sylhet said. The assailants fled the scene following the attack, but police are trying to identify the gang by interviewing eyewitnesses.
In February, Bangladeshi-American blogger and writer Avijit Roy, who founded the popular atheist blog “Mukto-Mona”, (Free Mind in Bengali,) and was known for his writings opposing religious fundamentalism, was hacked to death in Dhaka.
In March, Washiqur Rahman, another blogger known for his views critical of Islam, was killed in a machete attack by three Islamists in Dhaka.
Although police arrested one suspect in Roy’s killing, two of Rahman’s assailants- students of a religious school, were caught before they could flee the spot.
A banker, blogger and activist
Das was a banker by profession but also published a science journal called Jukti (Logic in Bengali) and was active in blogging.
He was also a moderator of the popular atheist blog Mukto-Mona (Free Mind in Bengali,) and was associated with Dhaka’s Gonojagoron Mancho or national awakening platform, a group that supports Bangladesh’s war crime tribunal and seeks the execution of all who were involved in war crimes during the 1971 war.
It is not yet clear why Das was targeted, but local media speculated that he was targeted because of his association with Mukto-Mona and its Bangladeshi-American founder, blogger and writer Avijit Roy, who was killed apparently by Islamists in Dhaka in February.
In 2006, Mukto-Mona’s “Rationalist of the Year” award was given to Das and later he became a moderator of the blog.
Several among Das’ friends told local media that in recent months he had received some death threats from unknown people.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Das criticized the role of police in the recent killing of Roy.
“When Avijit Roy was murdered, policemen were standing nearby and enjoying the scene. The murderers left the place after the killing. Police said later they performed their duty properly. I am really eager to know what their duty was,” Das wrote in the post.
Allies say killings target secular writers
As a free thinker Das was critical of religious fundamentalism, sought to popularize science through his writings and opposed attacks on secular thinkers, Imran H Sarker, a leader of Gonojagoron Mancho, said.
“With Das’s killing another voice of social resistance has been silenced now. This is part of a mission of organized killing of the free thinkers. We don’t know when this killing spree will stop,” Sarker said to VOA.
Sarker blamed the government for failing to prevent the attacks against the writers.
“One after another the fatal attacks on the free thinkers are taking place. The attackers are roaming freely and the government has failed to act against them. The fundamentalists, it seems, will turn this country into another Pakistan or Afghanistan," he said.
"Although in the case of attack on Washiqur the arrested attackers named their accomplices, police have not caught any of them,” he said.
Sarker said the failure to make arrests in the cases has led to another killing.