28 Feb 2015

US-Bangladesh blogger hacked to death

6:45 am on 28 February 2015

Attackers in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka have hacked to death a US-Bangladeshi blogger whose writings on religion angered Islamist hardliners.

Bangladeshi social activists form a human chain during a protest against the killing of US blogger of Bangladeshi origin, Avijit Roy.

Bangladeshi social activists form a human chain during a protest against the killing of US blogger of Bangladeshi origin, Avijit Roy. Photo: AFP

Avijit Roy, an atheist who advocated secularism, was attacked as he walked back from a book fair with his wife, who was also hurt in the attack.

No-one has been arrested but police say they are investigating a local Islamist group that praised the killing.

Hundreds of people gathered in Dhaka to mourn the blogger's death.

Mr Roy's family say he received threats after publishing articles promoting secular views, science and social issues on his Bengali-language blog, Mukto-mona (Free Mind).

He defended atheism in a recent Facebook post, calling it a "rational concept to oppose any unscientific and irrational belief".

His Mukto-mona website on Friday (local time) bore the message in Bengali "we are grieving but we shall overcome" against a black background.

'Den of militants'

A group of men ambushed the couple, who live in the US and were visiting Dhaka only to attend the book festival, as they walked toward a roadside tea stall.

At least two of the attackers hit the couple with meat cleavers in the attack on Thursday evening, police chief Sirajul Islam told AP news agency.

Dropping their weapons, the attackers ran away, disappearing into the crowds.

Police told the BBC they were investigating a local hard-line religious group that had praised the killing in an online message.

Ajay Roy, father of the dead man, urged the authorities to find the killers and "ensure exemplary punishment".

"This Bangladesh which was built by the blood-sacrifice of the martyrs has now turned into a den of militants," he said.

Students, teachers and bloggers gathered at Dhaka University on Friday to protest against the killing.

'Virus' of extremism

In a forthcoming article to be published in the Free Inquiry magazine of April-May 2015, Mr Roy likens religious extremism to a "highly contagious virus".

He says he received threats from Islamist hardliners in Bangladesh last year when his book, The Virus of Faith, was released at a book fair.

"The death threats started flowing to my e-mail inbox on a regular basis," he writes.

"I suddenly found myself a target of militant Islamists and terrorists. A well-known extremist... openly issued death threats to me through his numerous Facebook entries.

"In one widely circulated status, he writes, 'Avijit Roy lives in America and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. But he will be murdered when he comes back.'"

The killing in early 2013 of another secular blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, which was blamed on religious hardliners, sparked protests from free-speech supporters and counter-protests from Islamists.

The police say the attack on Mr Roy was similar to the 2013 murder.