The Killings of Bangladesi Bloggers

 Bangladeshi bloggers who have been killed this year: Niloy Chakrabarti, Ananta Bijoy Das, Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy (clockwise from top left)
Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen name Niloy Neel, was hacked to death with machetes on Friday after a gang broke into his apartment in the Bangladeshi capital.

In an interview with the Guardian in May, Chakrabarti said he had filed reports with local police about continued harassment and was scared that he would be killed. However, his complaints were not taken seriously, he claimed.

Imran H Sarker, head of the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, said Chakrabarti had been a “listed target”. “They entered his room on the fifth floor and shoved his friend aside and then hacked him to death,” Sarker told Agence France-Presse.

Chakrabarti is the fourth blogger to be killed in Bangladesh since February, when Bangladeshi-born US citizen Avijit Roy, a science writer and blog site moderator, was hacked to death in central Dhaka.

That killing prompted outrage around the world with more than 150 writers, including Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Yann Martel and Colm Tóibín, signing a letter condemning the series of fatal attacks and calling on the country’s government “to ensure that the tragic events … are not repeated”.

The other victims of recent attacks include Ananta Bijoy Das, who was murdered by a group wielding machetes on 13 May as he headed to work in Sylhet, northern Bangladesh, and 27-year-old Washiqur Rahman, killed in Dhaka in March.

All had been active on social media, criticising the extremist Muslim ideologies that have gained strength in Bangladesh in recent years or arguing in favour of progressive causes. On his Facebook account, Chakrabarti frequently wrote in favour of women’s rights.

Bangladesh is an officially secular country, but more than 90% of its 160 million people are Muslim.

Police confirmed Chakrabarti had been murdered by a group of half a dozen people in the capital’s Goran neighbourhood, although they had no details on the motive for the killing.

“There were six people who knocked on his door, saying that they were looking to rent a flat. Two of them then took him to a room and slaughtered him there,” Muntashirul Islam, a deputy police commissioner, said.

Police did not comment on charges that they had failed to act on Chakrabarti’s requests for protection.

Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent claimed responsibility for Roy’s killing on 26 February, in which his wife was badly injured. An Islamist has been arrested over his murder. Two students at religious schools were arrested over the killing of Washiqur Rahman.

Authorities in the politically unstable south Asian state have been repeatedly criticised for not acting to protect free speech, though the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a hardline Islamist group, was banned following Das’s murder.

Police believe the ABT may be behind the three attacks. Members of the group have already been charged with the 2013 murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.

One hardline group, Hefazat-e-Islam, has publicly sought the execution of atheists who organised mass protests against the rise of political Islam.

Hefazat, led by Islamic seminary teachers, also staged a massive counter-protest against the bloggers in May 2013 that unleashed violence and left nearly 50 people dead.

Active bloggers in Bangladesh told the Guardian earlier this year they received death threats “so frequently” they could not be counted. They also risk jail terms of up to 14 years for publishing material that authorities deem to be false or defamatory.

In 2013, atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed in the street by religious extremists. A month later, he was arrested and held in prison for making derogatory remarks about religion and his blog was banned.