Ananta Bijoy Das, 33, was murdered while on his way to work in Sylhet (Photo courtesy: Facebook page of Ananta Bijoy Das)
An atheist blogger was hacked to death in Bangladesh’s northeastern city of Sylhet on Tuesday, the third fatal attack on a prominent atheist writer in the country since February.
Ananta Bijoy Das, 33, was killed near Sylhet airport by four masked attackers as he was making his way to work.
Das, a banker by trade, was an organizer of the Sylhet-based secular forum Jukti (Logic) and the local unit of Gonojagoron Moncho (Public Uprising Square), a national forum of young secularists that campaigns for a secular Bangladesh.
The group also campaigned for the death penalty for war criminals from the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. Most of the accused were from Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest radical Islamic party.
Das also wrote for Mukto-Mona (Free Thinker), a secular blog site whose founder Avijit Roy, a United States citizen of Bangladeshi descent, was murdered in Dhaka in February.
Police say Das’ killing followed a similar pattern to the recent murders of Roy and Washiqur Rahman, who was hacked to death in Dhaka in March.
Two madrassa students have been arrested over Rahman’s killing.
“Ananta had no enemies. He was a secularist and wrote articles on scientific matters. We suspect he might have been killed by Islamic militants,” said Gausul Hussain, head of Sylhet Airport police.
Shahiduzzaman Paplu, a friend of Das and district president of the Bangladesh Student Union, blamed Islamic militants for the murder.
“Bijoy was on a hit list comprising 84 secularist bloggers drawn up by Islamic militants,” he told ucanews.com.
The method of killing would appear to indicate that members of the same fanatical group that killed Roy and Rahman also killed Das, Paplu said.
“The killings are all a dangerous threat to freedom of expression and shows the vulnerability of secular freethinkers in this country,” he added.
The murder follows a recent claim by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) that it was behind the killing of four Bangladeshi atheist bloggers over the past two years.
Bangladesh has seen a spike in threats and attacks on secular and atheist writers and bloggers in recent years.
Asif Mohiuddin, a self-styled militant atheist blogger, narrowly escaped death after being stabbed by Islamic militants in Dhaka on January 14, 2013.
On February 15 of the same year, Ahmed Rajeeb Haider was murdered near his home in Dhaka days after helping organize a rally of young secularists in the capital to demand the death penalty for war criminals.
The government has also cracked down on bloggers since May 2013 over allegedly blasphemous posts, following threats by radical Islamic groups.
Two popular blog sites were forced by authorities to erase hundreds of posts deemed derogatory to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.