Less than three months after al-Qaeda’s newest chapter warned that they were gearing up to strike their next target, the terrorists assassinated the fourth secular blogger in Bangladesh this year.
Niladri Chatterjee, 28, who blogged under the name Niloy Neel, had reportedly been receiving threats since the previous blogger murder by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, which celebrates its one-year anniversary next month.
“I was followed by two persons…they got on the same public bus with me. One of them even boarded the human haulier I was in. I was able to recognize him but thought that it was a coincidence,” he wrote in a May 15 Facebook post. “But later I saw that the person was sending text messages from his mobile phone frequently. It made me suspicious. Again that youth got down from the vehicle following me. Out of fear I took an unknown alleyway…looking behind I saw another youth joining him. But they did not come forward. It made me certain that I was being followed.”
Neel went to the cops — trying several police stations but not finding anyone to help. “Officers at one of the stations said the place was not under their jurisdiction,” he wrote of the odd brush-offs. At one stop he was told to just leave the country.
On Friday, Neel was hacked to death in his home in broad daylight by several men wielding machetes. His wife was home at the time.
AQIS proudly claimed the vicious murder in a statement.
“We, al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the honor of the messenger of Allah (pbuh). And we declare war against these worst enemies of Allah (swt) and His messenger (pbuh). We will apply all our effort to destroy them along with their allies insha’Allah,” said the statement from spokesman Mufti Abdullah Ashraf.
“This operation has healed the hearts of Muslims and the righteous scholars of this land. And the hearts of hypocrites and disbelievers are burning with rage… If your ‘Freedom of Speech’ maintains no limits, then widen your chests for ‘Freedom of our Machetes.'”
The State Department released a general statement condemning “the cowardly murder,” adding “this heinous act once again underscores the need to work together to counter violent extremism.”
“We stand with Bangladeshis who reject this vicious act and who work to protect space for freedom of expression.”
The AQIS victims have included an American, yet the administration speaks little about this brazen chapter and expansion of “on the run” al-Qaeda.
In February, Bangladeshi-American secularist blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death on a Dhaka street. “The target was an American citizen.. 2 in 1. #America recently martyred 2 of our brothers in #Khurasan & #Shaam. #Revenge+#Punishment,” Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh tweeted afterward.
Roy was a dual U.S.-Bangladesh citizen who lived in Georgia and was in Bangladesh for a month. His wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonna, was with him at the time of the attack and was severely wounded, with one of her fingers severed by the pair of machete-wielding attackers.
His blog in the 90 percent Muslim country, mukto-mona.com, translates to “free thinking” and featured atheist, humanist and nationalist writers. He was also an author whose books included The Philosophy of Disbelief and The Virus of Faith — further stoking outrage of Islamists.
Das contributed to mukto-mona.com.
After Roy’s murder, secular blogger Washiqur Rahman wasn’t going to take it from the Islamists. He posted a Charlie Hebdo Muhammad cartoon and used the hashtag #IamAvijit. Rahman was hacked to death at the end of March.
Two suspects out of three attackers were seized at the scene of the crime: students at an Islamic school who said they were acting on orders to kill Rahman.
Ananta Bijoy Das, a science writer whose numerous books included one on evolution, was hacked to death by four men wielding machetes and cleavers in May as he went to work in the city of Sylhet. AQIS issued a statement announcing they were “delighted” to be responsible for “one Islamophobic atheist blogger sent to hell.” They accused Das of “taunts” to Islam.
Das knew his life was in danger, and tried to get a visa to go to Sweden for a press-freedom event. Swedish officials denied the request, afraid that the writer wouldn’t return to Bangladesh. A month later he was dead.
After the Das murder, AQIS published guidelines of which “blasphemers” to assassinate in addition to their circulated list of 84 names:
- “Those who are insulting our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Allah (S) and our religion Islam. We have no problem with the atheists bloggers, atheism or with other religions or belief but we will not tolerate insulting out Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). We are targeting those who are insulting our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the name of atheism.”
- “People who are not allowing to follow the rulings of shariah. He/She might be a teacher of a University, College or School. He/She might be a leader of a certain area or locality or a political party. He/She might be a Judge, Advocate, Engineer or Doctor etc.”
- “Those who are presenting Islam wrongly in His/Her writings or talks and trying to keep Muslims far from the real teaching of Islam which is one of the main agendas of crusaders in the Muslim nations all over the world. He/She might be a well known writer. He/She might be a poet or free thinker or so called intellectuals. He/She might be an editor of a newspaper of magazine. He/She might be a actor, journalist, producer, director or actor etc.”
- “Those who are opposing, lowing and presenting wrongly the rulings of shariah by his/her talks or writings using media or any other means of publications.”
- “Those who are trying to destroy Muslim social values by introducing and spreading the nudity and zina [sex outside of marriage] among the Muslim youths.”
- “Those who are tying to remove the shariah rulings from the existing Islamic systems, values, cultures and economics.”
- “Those who are trying to stop the establishment of Islamic rulings (Shariah).”
Bangladesh newspaper The Daily Star said two officials from the FBI were in the country on Sunday to offer “technical” help with investigating Neel’s murder.
The meeting was “pre-scheduled,” said the paper, as the FBI wanted to discuss evidence analysis findings in the slaying of Roy, the American citizen.
In May, the State Department wouldn’t answer a reporter’s briefing question about who was killing off bloggers despite al-Qaeda’s publicized hit list of “blasphemers.”
“You will be hacked to death in Bangladesh if you criticise Islam. If you are from non-Muslim background you’ll be killed first,” tweeted Taslima Nasreen, a Bangladeshi writer in exile whose name is on the AQIS hit list and who came under her first fatwa 21 years ago. “The killers were screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’ while killing Niloy Neel.”
“The Muslim clerics from Bangladesh ruling party demanded all atheist bloggers must be hanged to death, or must be thrown out of the country,” she continued. “There is no difference between Islamic terrorists & Bangladesh government. Govt doesn’t take any action against killers who kill freethinkers. B’desh gov says if u criticize religion we’ll arrest u. What if we criticize Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism? No prob, Only prob if u criticize Islam.”