Machete-wielding Islamists hacked a blogger to death in front of his family when most locals were away for Friday prayers.
The terror group al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the killing, the fourth such attack in less than six months in Bangladesh.
Niloy Chakrabarty Neel — local paper The Daily Star mentioned his name as Niladri Chattopadhyay — better known by his pen name ‘Niloy Neel’, was living in a flat on the fifth floor of a building at East Goran in Dhaka.
According to Neel’s wife Asha Moni, one of the assailants wearing jeans and black T-shirt and posing as a potential tenant, visited their flat around 1.30 pm.
The visitor said he had come to see a flat which, unfortunately, remained locked. He asked the couple to allow him see their place to have an idea of the living space he is planning to rent in their building. They obliged without a second thought.
Later, as Neel and Asha led the stranger to the main gate of the building, he made a brief call on his cellphone.
Suddenly, three machete-wielding youths appeared and began attacking Neel.
The gang threatened to kill Asha and her sister, Nasrin Tonni, when they tried to save him.
“One of the killers pulled out a gun and brandished it at us,” Asha said.
Shamim, a tenant of the building, said he heard youths chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ after the incident.
The murder sparked protests in the city.
“The assassins used machetes… it appears they hit him several times until he was dead,” Mostafizur Rahman, officer in-charge of the local police station told PTI news agency.
He said Neel, who was working with a non-government organization, was known for his liberal views.
Ansar-Al-Islam, the Bangladesh chapter of al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the killing terming the blogger an enemy of Allah.
“Alhamdulillah! (All praise and thanks to God). Mujahidin of Ansar-al-Islam carried out an operation to slaughter an enemy of Allah…” the group said in a statement.
However, the authenticity of the email issued by Mufti Abdullah Ashraf, who claimed himself to be the spokesman of Ansar-al-Islam, could not be verified independently.
The blogger recently received numerous threats for his writings and views against radicalism.
“There were signs of haphazard hacking on Niloy’s throat and neck,” said Krishnapada Roy, joint commissioner of the detective branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Roy said Niloy’s murder soon after Friday prayers was planned.
“They (assailants) killed him at a time when male members of families nearby had gone to attend the Juma (Friday) prayers.”
Neel had removed all his photos from his Facebook page and mentioned Kolkata as his current location after he started getting threats.
Neel was an activist of Ganajagaran Manch (Group for awakening of the masses), a forum demanding a ban on Islamist parties and maximum penalty for convicted war criminals of Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971.
“Niloy was a regular blogger… he was a target of the Islamists,” Imran H. Sarker, the spokesman of Ganajagaran Mancha, said.
As Asia Times had reported earlier, police and other law enforcing agencies in Bangladesh are yet to make any progress in solving the murder cases of bloggers Ananta Bijoy Das, Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy, all three of whom were killed between February and May this year.
Although a number of suspects have been arrested, the masterminds behind the killings are yet to be found. An online video in April by Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for the murders of the bloggers and similar free-thinkers in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
As justice is yet to be meted out, bloggers in Bangladesh are wary of their own fates amid threats they receive online and over phone.
On May 12, as award-winning blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was hacked to death by four masked criminals in Sylhet. Das succumbed to his wounds in a hospital.
He too was an activist of the Ganajagaran Mancha.
CID sources along with police have told the media that a militant outfit named Ansarullah Bangla (AB) is most likely behind the murder of Das.
Immediately after Das’s murder on May 12, a twitter account believed to be of AB’s tweeted that AQIS has claimed responsibility for the killing.
AB is also suspected to be behind the murders of blogger Roy who was hacked to death in a similar manner near the Dhaka University premises on February 26. Roy, a dual US-Bangladeshi citizen, was an atheist blogger who had written a book titled The Virus of Faith, which likened religious extremism to an infectious disease.