Bangladesh files cases against four over blogger's murder

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh police Tuesday filed criminal cases against two Islamic students and two others for the machete murder of a blogger accused of mocking Islam, the second such attack in recent weeks.

Washiqur Rahman was hacked to death near his home on Monday morning in Dhaka, less than two months after the murder of an American atheist blogger triggered international outrage.

Police Inspector Mohammad Salahuddin said three knife-wielding attackers killed the 27-year-old because they believed he had "defamed Islam" in the mainly Muslim country through writings on social media.

Police lodged preliminary murder charges against two students of madrassas who were arrested at the scene, along with the third who fled and is still on the run, another officer said.

An alleged planner of the attack was also charged and is now under investigation after the students named him during police questioning, said deputy commissioner Biplob Kumar Sarker.

"A case was filed against the four people accusing them of the murder of the blogger," Sarker told AFP.

Officially secular Bangladesh has seen a rise in Islamism in recent years.

Bloggers and other writers along with secular activists held a rally and candlelight vigil against the murder late on Monday at Dhaka University, the country's secular bastion.

The European Union, Bangladesh's main trade partner, condemned the "vile aggression" and called for freedom of expression.

Rahman wrote a 52-episode series for an anti-religion satirical site called Dhormockery.com, according to the London-based, International Humanist and Ethical Union.

The pieces mock aspects of Islam, and fellow bloggers said Rahman did not believe in any organised religion.

The killing bears strong similarities to the murder of Avijit Roy, an American blogger of Bangladeshi origin who was hacked to death with machetes in Dhaka in February.

His death sparked uproar, with hundreds of secular activists holding protests for days to demand justice.

One of the two arrested over the latest murder had been studying at a top madrassa in the port city of Chittagong, headed by hardline Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam.

The group was behind massive protests against secular bloggers in 2013 that left nearly 50 people dead.

Police cracked down on the thousands of hardliners who poured into Dhaka to protest and demand the execution of bloggers, accusing them of defaming Islam.