A Bangladeshi extremist group linked to al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the killing of a secular publisher and attack on another.
“We, al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent (AQIS), claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the honour of the messenger of Allah and the religion of Islam,” read a statement sent from AQIS affiliate Ansar-al-Islam to media outlets.
“These two publishers were worse than the writers of such books, as they helped to propagate those books and paid the blasphemers handsome amount of money for writing them,” the statement said.
The group earlier claimed responsibility for the killings four other secular bloggers in Bangladesh this year, calling the victims enemies of Islam and Allah.
The two attacks by a group of people took place Saturday in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.
In both attacks, the perpetrators locked the victims inside their offices before fleeing.
Both publishers had published books of blogger and US citizen Avijit Roy who was killed in an attack in Dhaka early this year.
In the second incident, attackers entered the office of Faysal Arefin Dipan, chief of publication house Jagriti Prakashani, and stabbed him to death around 5.30 pm (1130 GMT) in Dhaka’s central Shahbagh area, said Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) spokesperson Muntashirul Alam.
In the first attack, according to locals, some miscreants barged into the office of Tutul around 2.30pm while he was in a conversation with blogger Ranadipam Basu and writer Tareq Rahim. They allegedly attacked the three with sharp weapons. Some people reported hearing a gunshot.
A resident of Lalmatia, who did not want to be named, told Asia Times, “Around afternoon, my daughter, who was watching TV, called out to me after hearing some people shouting for help and pleading for mercy in a neighboring building. We did not see anything though.”
Other residents said the attackers, three to four in number, fled after locking up the bleeding victims inside the office-room.
Within minutes, police arrived at the Lalmatia office.
“It is too early to say anything about the attack,” said Alam to Asia Times. “One of our teams has rushed to the spot, rescued the victims from the office and took them to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). At the moment, they are receiving treatment.”
Bloggers and online activists gathered at DMCH after hearing the news. From the hospital, Imran H Sarkar, spokesperson for Gonojagoron Mancha, informed Asia Times, “We are waiting by the operation theater as they are all being treated. Tutul and Rahim are in critical condition. Tutul was shot. It seems the assailants wanted to ensure that he does not survive.”
Gonojagoron Mancha is the activist youth group which demanded a ban on Islamist parties and maximum penalty for convicted war criminals during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971.
Earlier in February, following Roy’s killing near the Dhaka University premises, Tutul had filed a complaint with Mohammadpur police claiming he was being threatened. Under the banner of his publishing house Suddha Swar, Tutul had published a number of books written by Roy.
“We are still not sure about the reasons for the attack. We hope to reveal them and arrest the attackers soon,” said Alam.
On August 7 this year, secular blogger and Gonojagoron Mancha activist Niladri Chatterjee alias Niloy Neel was hacked to death in a similar manner at his home in Goran of Dhaka.
Award-winning blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was hacked to death by four masked criminals on May 12 in Sylhet of Bangladesh. Das, also an activist of Gonojagoron Mancha, succumbed to his injuries in a local hospital.
On March 30, blogger Washiqur Rahman Babu was killed near his house in Tejgaon area of Dhaka while on his way to work. Witnesses said three men attacked the 27-year-old, who worked with a travel agency, and hacked him with meat cleavers.
Rahman’s murder occurred a month after the brutal attack on Avijit Roy and his wife near the Dhaka University premises on February 26. Rafida Ahmed Bonya, Roy’s wife, survived the attack while losing a finger. Roy succumbed to his injuries after being admitted to a hospital.
The four bloggers, who were murdered, were named in a list of 84 ‘atheist bloggers’ drawn up by Islamic groups in 2013 in Bangladesh and widely circulated.
Bangladesh police suspect that a militant group named Ansarullah Bangla may be behind the attacks and murders of the four bloggers.
Imran H. Sarker, who is also the Head of Blogger and Online Activist Network (BOAN), informed Asia Times that bloggers and online activists had brought out a protest rally immediately after the attack on Tutul, Basu and Rahim.
A few months back, Sarker was critical of the efforts of the Bangladesh government in solving the murders of bloggers.
He said, “We can see no achievement by the law enforcing agencies in solving the blogger murders.”
He pointed out that the inability to investigate and find the killers of the bloggers shows the Bangladesh “government’s indifference to solve these crimes.”
A number of bloggers mentioned in the list of 84 bloggers have already moved to other countries. Others are keeping a low profile by not writing about political issues and religion.
Syed Tashfin Chowdhury is a Dhaka, Bangladesh-based freelance journalist and the editor of Xtra, the weekend magazine of New Age, a leading English daily in Bangladesh.
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