Bangladesh pays tribute to U.S. blogger killed in machete attack

Bangladeshis gather to pay tribute to a U.S. blogger and critic of religious extremism who was killed in Dhaka, in the latest of a series of attacks on writers in the Muslim-majority nation.

DHAKA, BANGLADESH (MARCH 01, 2015) (ANI) – Bangladeshis gathered on Sunday (March 01) to pay tribute to a U.S. blogger and critic of religious extremism who was killed in Dhaka, in the latest of a series of attacks on writers in the Muslim-majority nation.

Avijit Roy, a U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin, was hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants on Thursday (February 26) after a book fair.

His wife and fellow blogger Rafida Ahmed suffered head injuries and lost a finger and remains in hospital in a serious condition.

The attack came amid a crackdown on hardline Islamist groups, which have increased activities in recent years in the South Asian nation of 160 million people.

People from all walks gathered with flowers at the Dhaka University premises on Sunday to pay their respect to Avijit, who came to his native city in mid-February and was due to go back to the United States.

“Blogger Avijit Roy could be saved from this killing because the media, since February 09th, had spread the news that he could be killed. Everyone in the country followed it except the administration and the intelligence that he could be killed anytime,” said spokesperson of resurgence platform, Ganajagaran Mancha, Imran H. Sarkar.

No arrest has so far been made. People also held a demonstration at the spot where he was killed and chanted slogans demanding “immediate arrest and quick trial of the perpetrator”.

Roy’s family said Islamist radicals had been threatening him because he maintained a blog, “Mukto-mona,” or “Freemind,” that highlighted humanist and rationalist ideas and condemned religious extremism.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called it “a shocking act of violence” that was “horrific in its brutality and cowardice”.

Meanwhile, Sarkar added such killings will continue if protests are not built up.

“We have to come to the roads, otherwise we will see any of us is killed and the news of similar killings, like Avijit Roy will be aired in the media. We have to stand united and combat the evil attempts of spreading militancy. This way we will be able to secure our human rights and establish a peaceful and communalism-free Bangladesh,” he added.

In 2013, religious extremists targeted several secular bloggers who had demanded capital punishment for Islamist leaders convicted of war crimes during Bangladesh’s war for independence.

Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed that year in a similar attack near his home in Dhaka after he led one such protest demanding capital punishment.

In 2004, Humayun Azad, a secular writer and professor at Dhaka University, was also attacked by militants while returning home from a Dhaka book fair. He later died in Germany while undergoing treatment.

Media group Reporters Without Borders rated Bangladesh 146th among 180 countries in a ranking of press freedom last year.