Avijit Roy was hacked to death in the streets of Dhaka, his wife seriously injured in the attack as well
American blogger Avijit Roy was murdered last week by machete-wielding attackers in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. Roy was a prominent critic of religious extremism and his death is the latest in a series of attacks on writers supporting secular and free-thinking movements in the Muslim-dominated country.
Roy, a U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin, and his wife Rafida Ahmed, were attacked while coming home from a book fair. Ahmed was seriously injured and is in critical care.
“He died as he was brought to the hospital. His wife was also seriously wounded. She has lost a finger,” said local police chief, Sirajul Islam.
Hundreds of protesters rallied in the country’s capital to denounce the murder, chanting “we want justice” and “raise your voice against militants”.
Roy is the second blogger to be murdered in Bangladesh in the last two years after Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed in 2013. The Bangladeshi government reacted to this murder by arresting other atheist bloggers for blasphemy, but it is unlikely to do so again following the harsh backlash they received.
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman from the U.S. state department, called the attack a “shocking act of violence” that was “horrific in its brutality and cowardice”.
She also said they had no information on the motive behind the attack, but were willing to offer assistance with the investigation in any way possible.
Bangladesh has been cracking down recently on hardline Islamist groups which have become increasingly active in the South Asian country.
Police retrieved two machetes from the site of the attack, but have not identified any suspects, although they are investigating the Ansarullah Bangla Team, an Islamic extremist group in Bangladesh that claimed responsibility for the murder.
Roy’s family said that radicals had been threatening him these last few weeks because of his blog “Mukto-mona”, or “Freemind”, where he promoted humanist and rationalist ideas, and condemned religious extremism.
“Islamist radicals are behind my son’s murder,” Ajay Roy told reports on Friday after filing a murder case with police. “We mourn but we are not out,” read a banner on “Freemind”.
U.N. spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, condemned the attack, saying the U.N. hopes “the perpetrators will be quickly brought to justice through the due process of law. It is very important that the space for freedom of expression and civil society be upheld in Bangladesh”.
The Center for Inquiry, a U.S. based nonprofit group Roy blogged for, said it was “shocked and heartbroken” by his murder.
“Dr. Roy was a true ally, a courageous and eloquent defender of reason, science and free expression, in a country where those values have been under heavy attack,” the Center said in a statement.
Bangladesh was rated 146th out of 180 countries in a ranking for press freedom last year by media group Reporters Without Borders.
Bangladesh saw a series of attacks against bloggers in 2013 when religious extremists targeted bloggers demanding capital punishment for Islamic leaders convicted of war crimes during Bangladesh’s war for independence.