8:47 pm - Thursday November 5, 2015

Fourth secular blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh

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Barely three months after the killing of a blogger in Sylhet, unknown assailants armed with machetes hacked to death secular blogger Niloy Chatterjee Neel at his home in Dhaka on Friday.

Niloy, who used the pen-name Niloy Neel, was killed after the gang broke into his apartment on the top floor of a four-storeyed building in Dhaka’s North Gorhan around 1.45 p.m.

The police said Niloy was a member of the “Gonojagoran Moncha”, a platform for youths demanding capital punishment for war criminals. Five attackers entered his house posing as potential renters.

When they were refused entry, they forced their way in, confined Mr. Chatterjee in a room and slashed his head and neck. According to Niloy’s family members and the police, the assailants were armed with machetes and entered the flat in two groups after the Juma (Friday) prayers.

Niloy, who frequently blogged against communalism and fundamentalism on his website ‘Istishon’ (Station), recently received death threats from religious fanatics.

Family and friends said, following repeated threats, Niloy removed his pictures from his Facebook page and changed his place of residence to Kolkata.

The Bangladesh branch of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, Ansar al-Islam, claimed the killing and warned of more to come, according to monitoring group SITE.

“If your ‘freedom of speech’ maintains no limits, then widen your chests for ‘freedom of our machetes’,” the group, which also claimed to have murdered secular blogger Oyasiqur Rahman Babu in March, said in posts on Twitter and Facebook.

Niloy,40, who worked for an NGO, is the fourth secular blogger to be killed in the Muslim-majority nation since February, when Bangladeshi-born US citizen Avijit Roy was hacked to death in Dhaka. Roy’s wife and fellow blogger, Rafida Ahmed Bonya, was also badly wounded in the attack. In May, secular blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was hacked to death in north-eastern Sylhet on his way to work.

Two years ago, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was hacked to death near his home in Dhaka’s Mirpur.

Underground radical Islamist groups are reportedly behind the attacks. Their brutality is posing a major threat to free thinkers in the country.

Though the police have made some breakthrough in a few cases and arrested suspected killers, no punishment has been handed down so far.

Bloggers in hiding

Activist groups say they fear that Islamist hit squads have lists of the real names and addresses of the bloggers.

Asif Mohiuddin, a blogger who survived an attack in Bangladesh in 2013, described Chatterjee as an atheist “free thinker” whose posts appeared on several sites.

“He was critical against religions and wrote against Islamist, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist fundamentalism,” Mohiuddin, who is now based in the German capital Berlin, told AFP by phone.

The police meanwhile said Chatterjee was one of the organisers of the large-scale protests in 2013 against Islamists convicted of war crimes dating back to the 1971 conflict when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan.

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