A Bangladeshi blogger who advocated secularism has been hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers, the third such killing of a critic of religious extremism in the Muslim-majority nation in less than three months.
Ananta Bijoy Das, a 33-year-old banker who wrote in his spare time, was attacked by four masked assailants in the northeastern district of Sylhet on Tuesday morning.
Mr Das was the editor of a science magazine and sat on the advisory board of “Mukto Mona” (Free Mind), a website propagating rationalism and opposing fundamentalism that was founded by U.S.-based blogger Avijit Roy.
Roy himself was hacked to death in February while returning home with his wife from a Dhaka book fair.
According to reports, the militant group Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Imran Sarker, the head of a network of activists and bloggers in Bangladesh, told Reuters that Das was “a progressive free thinker and a good human being.
“What is going on? The government will have to end this culture of impunity,” Sarker added.
“Otherwise, the fundamentalists will turn our secular country into another Pakistan or Afghanistan.”
More than 120 people have died in violent anti-government protests this year and thousands of opposition activists have been arrested.
Militants have targeted secularist writers in Bangladesh in recent years, while the government has tried to crack down on hardline Islamist groups seeking to make the South Asian nation of 160 million a sharia-based state.
On March 30, Washiqur Rahman, another secular blogger who aired his outrage over Roy’s death on social media, was killed in similar fashion on a busy street in the capital, Dhaka.
Their deaths followed the killing in 2013 of Ahmed Rajib Haider, who backed calls to impose the death penalty on Islamist leaders accused of atrocities in Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.