A group of unidentified assailants hacked another secular blogger to death in Bangladesh on Friday. The victim, known by the pseudonym Niloy Neel, is the fourth blogger murdered by religious extremists in the last six months. With no one facing charges for any of the murders, the government of Bangladesh has been accused of allowing their killers to operate with impunity.
After Friday prayers, six men entered Neel’s building posing as potential tenants looking to rent a flat. They pulled out machetes and confined his wife to another room before hacking him to death. Hours later, a local Al Qaeda offshoot group called Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibility for the murder.
In 2013, a group of Islamic extremists drafted a list of 84 bloggers accused of being atheists while calling for their deaths. Within the last six months, four secular bloggers from that list have been hacked to death. No one has been charged with any of the murders.
Fearing for his life and his family’s safety, Neel recently removed photos from his Facebook profile and falsely listed his current location under a different city. Although Neel had filed a police report expressing fear for his life, law enforcement officials never followed up on his complaints.
Neel’s last name is being identified in news reports as Chatterjee, Chowdhury, and Chakrabarti. He frequently criticized religious extremism in Bangladesh while advocating for minority rights and secular ideas. Neel also wrote posts condemning the recent murders of three other secular bloggers in Bangladesh.
In May, four masked assailants armed with machetes attacked a secular blogger named Ananta Bijoy Das on his way to work. They hacked him to death in the middle of the street for criticizing religious fundamentalism and the recent violence against secular thinkers.
In March, Washiqur Rahman Babu was hacked to death on a busy street for criticizing irrational religious beliefs online. His assailants used meat cleavers to murder him.
On the evening of February 26, a Bangladeshi-born U.S. citizen and founder of the blog Mukto Mona (Free Mind), Avijit Roy and his wife were returning home from a book fair in Dhaka when assailants with knives and machetes ambushed them. Roy was killed in the attack, while his wife suffered head injuries and lost her left thumb. Before his death, Roy had been criticizing religious intolerance on his blog.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), seventeen journalists, including Das, Babu, and Roy have been murdered in Bangladesh since 1992. Most of these cases remain unsolved.
“How many more bloggers must be murdered before the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina acts decisively to stem the violence and impunity?” asked CPJ Asia Program Research Associate Sumit Galhotra. “We call on the Hasina government to take urgent steps to bring the perpetrators of this barbaric murder to justice and protect all journalists under threat.”