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Rights Groups Urge US to Protect Secular Bangladeshi Writers

FILE - Bangladeshi blogger Ibrahim Khalil has been living in hiding since 2013 when the Islamists drew up a list of 84 "anti-Islam" atheist bloggers and called for their public execution.

Leading human rights organizations on Monday urged the United States to offer emergency sanctuary to Bangladeshi writers targeted by Islamic extremists for their secular beliefs.

Groups including PEN American Center, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders made the appeal in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"These writers are unable to seek protection from their own government and are under threat of deadly attack from identifiable non-state groups who have acted on their threats and rhetoric repeatedly in the past," the letter said.

Four bloggers and a publisher have been killed in the South Asian nation this year alone, and dozens more have been publicly threatened by Islamist groups.

The letter, signed by seven rights groups, said Islamist extremist groups like Ansar al-Islam, the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), and Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have claimed responsibility for these killings.

ABT and other Islamist groups have published multiple "hit lists" consisting of the names of secular bloggers, writers and publishers that they have vowed to kill.

"The government of Bangladesh has proved unable to stop these attacks and provide the necessary security to prevent future attacks, leaving these bloggers and publishers with no recourse to guarantee their safety within the country," the letter said.

The letter called the situation "extremely dangerous'' and urged "humanitarian parole'' for the bloggers to prevent their deaths.

Humanitarian parole is used sparingly to bring a person into the United States for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services.