Days after a Dhaka law student Nazimuddin Samad was hacked and shot to death, police are still clueless about the murderers. The home minister says he is yet to gather information to explain how and why the attack happened. But there is a method in the madness of the killers of Samad and other liberal bloggers before him and it is unfortunate that police could not catch any of them. Free thinkers of Bangladesh now fear these unresolved cases may encourage the killers to strike again and again with impunity.
DHAKA–Police in Bangladesh are yet to make any headway into the murder of Nazimuddin Samad, a 28-year old law student and online activist, who was killed by unknown assailants on a busy Dhaka road around evening on April 6.
Latest reports say a local branch of al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for his death. But his killers are still at large.
Fellow bloggers and online activists fear that the case of Samad, the sixth killing since the beginning of last year, may also remain unsolved like the rest.
The post-mortem examination of Samad’s body was completed on Thursday. Asia Times has learnt through sources at the mortuary that Samad’s skull bore a severe cut wound made by a sharp weapon on one side along with a bullet wound on the other side.
Samad was killed near Hrishikesh Das Lane of Sutrapur around 8.45 pm when he was returning home from evening classes at the Jagannath University nearby.
According to the police, three to four young men came walking towards Samad and hacked him with machetes and shot him in the head to ensure his death.
“We have not been able to get too far with the investigation. We are trying to collect CCTV footage from some of the stores nearby,” said Samir Chandra Sutradhar, inspector of Sutrapur police station.
Besides being a student, Samad was an online activist. He hailed from Sylhet and was a member of the ‘Sylhet Bangabanghu National Youth Parishad’.
He was also an activist of the Ganajagaran Mancha, a platform initiated by bloggers and online activists in 2013 demanding proper trials and punishments of all collaborators and war criminals of Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971.
Debashish Deb, Sylhet’s spokesperson for Ganajagaran Mancha, said: “I knew Samad through his activism in our platform. He was always vocal about religious fundamentalism.”
Friends of Samad say he was threatened a number of times for his online activism. His name was in a list of 84 ‘atheist’ bloggers and online activists that was allegedly circulated by Islamist groups in Bangladesh in 2013.
Prior to Samad, blogger Niladri Chatterjee Niloy was hacked to death in his own home on August 7, 2015.
Three months before that, blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was hacked to death by a group of miscreants in Sylhet on May 12.
Blogger Washiqur Rahman Babu was hacked to death on March 30 in Dhaka. Two suspects were arrested in connection with the killing.
A month before Babu’s killing, US-Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy, who was also the founder of Mukto-mona (free thinker) blog, and his wife were attacked by a group of miscreants wielding machetes on February 26. Roy succumbed to his wounds at a hospital in Dhaka.
Besides these five bloggers and Samad, publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan was killed in his own office by unknown assailants on October 31, 2015. Another publisher, Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury Tutul, was attacked in a similar manner on the same day.
Despite suffering severe wounds, Tutul and his two friends survived.
Both Dipan and Tutul had published books written by Avijit Roy.
Immediately after the attacks on the two publishers in October 2015, Ansar-al-Islam, a Bangladeshi extremist group linked to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility.
In a statement sent to media outlets, the group had said, “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 group had earlier claimed responsibility for killing four secular bloggers in Bangladesh in 2015, calling the victims enemies of Islam and Allah.
As the tally of unsolved deaths of bloggers and publishers has reached six, online activists fear that unresolved cases may send the wrong message to culprits and encourage them to kill more with impunity. They feel the government must act now.
Imran H. Sarker, head of the Blogger and Online Activists Network in Bangladesh and a spokesperson for the Shahbagh movement, said to Asia Times that the movement will continue protests till their demands of finding the murderers of the bloggers and publisher are met.
“This (murders) has been happening since 2015,” he said. “Samad was vocal not only about religious fundamentalism but also about other issues like the recent cyber heist and the murder of a teenage girl named Tonu,” said Sarker.
He hoped the government would ensure proper investigation into the murders of Samad and the five others before him.
While discussing the incident with the BBC Bangla Service on April 7, Bangladesh’s Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said that the write-ups of the slain secular activist Nazimuddin Samad “need to be scrutinized” to see whether he wrote anything objectionable about religion.
Asked about the murder, Kamal said, “Why it happened or what exactly happened, I cannot say right now. At first, I have to gather information”.
Syed Tashfin Chowdhury is a Dhaka-based freelance journalist and editor of Xtra, the weekend magazine of New Age, a leading English daily in Bangladesh.