Another secular writer has been hacked to death in Bangladesh for criticizing Islam in the sixth such assassination in the country’s capital since February 2015.
Nazimuddin Samad, 28, a law student at Jagannath University, was walking down a Dhaka street with a friend on Wednesday evening when a trio of men approached on a motorbike and attacked him with machetes, police said. As Samad lay on the ground, his attackers shot him before fleeing.
Police said witnesses reported hearing the killers shout “Allahu Akbar.” They said Samad had recently moved to Dhaka to begin his law studies, and he was likely on a hit list before that.
A collection of some of Samad’s Facebook posts mocking Islam was posted on a file-sharing site in an attempt to justify the terrorists’ actions, complaining that the western media made an “extreme anti-Islamic” young man a hero despite “heinous” crimes against Islam.
Students from Samad’s university protested on Thursday. “We have lost another friend, don’t know where it will stop…whoever the killers, we want justice,” Samad’s friend, Asif Sazil, wrote on his Facebook page.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has been systematically murdering secular bloggers and publishers, with ISIS joining the killing spree by murdering a longtime convert to Christianity near his home last month with the same street attack style.
AQIS was announced by Ayman al-Zawahiri in September 2014 to united South Asia jihadist groups under the al-Qaeda banner. They’ve even issued assassination guidelines for which people to target next.
Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh, the local wing of AQIS, has circulated a timeline graphic of their murders: assassinations of bloggers and thinkers deemed to have insulted Islam.
In February 2015, 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.
One of the other victims, Ananta Bijoy Das, contributed to mukto-mona.com. A science writer whose numerous books included one on evolution, Das was hacked to death by four men wielding machetes and cleavers in May as he went to work in the city of Sylhet.
Washiqur Rahman Babu posted a Charlie Hebdo Muhammad cartoon and used the hashtag #IamAvijit. He was hacked to death at the end of March 2015.
Niloy Chatterjee, who blogged under the name Niloy Neel, had been getting threats from AQIS and 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.
In August, Neel was hacked to death in his home in broad daylight by several men wielding machetes. His wife was home at the time.
Faisal Arefin Dipan, who was Avijit Roy’s publisher, was slaughtered in his Dhaka office in October. AQIS said in a statement afterward that he “frequently published books in which the honor of the prophet was violated,” thus was “worse than the writers of such books.”
“Your nominal ‘freedom of speech’ is only tamed when it comes to spreading vile and waging war on Allah and His Messenger and defaming the Islamic religion,” the terror group added. “…The mujahideen will pay you back with appropriate response to your crimes.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom implored Secretary of State John Kerry in January to admit to the United States some Bangladeshi bloggers at high risk of assassination by al-Qaeda groups.
That follows a plea just before Christmas from a coalition of human rights groups warning that dozens of Bangladeshi writers — deemed blasphemers by Islamists for their secular works — were in “urgent danger” and in need of protection.
One of those groups, PEN International, said today more must be done to protect free-thinkers in what, under its 1972 constitution, should be a secular country.
“The impunity with which militants have targeted and killed bloggers, writers, and activists in the past two years shows that the government has failed to ensure a secure environment in which people can express their views freely and without fear. The lack of progress in investigations and the poor record of prosecution do not inspire confidence,” said Salil Tripathi, chair of the Writers in Prison Committee.
“Bloggers and writers have said that when they have lodged complaints with authorities, they are advised not to write on controversial matters. Such actions strengthen the killers and further undermine freedoms.”