Bangladesh police identify 7 suspects in murder of US blogger

Bangladesh police have identified seven people who were involved in the brutal attack on blogger Avijit Roy (pictured) on Feb 26, 2015, saying they belonged to a home-grown Islamist militant group.
Bangladesh police have identified seven people who were involved in the brutal attack on blogger Avijit Roy (pictured) on Feb 26, 2015, saying they belonged to a home-grown Islamist militant group.PHOTO: REUTERS

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh police said on Tuesday that seven people belonging to a home-grown Islamist militant group took part in the brutal murder of a Bangladeshi-born United States atheist blogger in Dhaka in February.

All seven followed Avijit Roy on the night of Feb 26 and then brutally hacked him to death in a busy road on the Dhaka University campus when Mr Roy and his wife were returning from a book fair.

"In primary investigation police detectives have identified seven of those who took part in the killing," Dhaka police spokesman Muntasirul Islam told AFP, adding none of them have been arrested.

"What our investigation has found is that all seven are members of the banned Islamist militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT)," he said, referring to the little-known group whose activists were charged with the murder of another atheist blogger.

The government banned ABT in May this year for its alleged involvement in the murders of atheist bloggers. Police earlier said the group is manned by top university graduates and members number less than 100.

Mr Islam said the alleged killers are "mostly private university students and one of them is a young doctor".

"We are hoping to arrest the big fishes who operate behind the scene once we manage to catch the seven people," he said.

Bangladesh police sent the photos of the seven to Mr Roy's widow Rafida Ahmed, who lost a finger during the attack, in the United States for further identification through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bengali daily Samakal said.

And she has identified two of the killers from the seven, it added.

Police earlier charged ABT members with the 2013 murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.

Immediately after Mr Roy's murder, the ABT claimed responsibility for the killing via a Twitter account. Police, however, said they were not sure whether the account was genuine.

In May Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) also claimed responsibility for Mr Roy's murder.

The Bangladesh-born writer, who emigrated to the southern US state of Georgia some 15 years ago, was well known in his native land for his Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog, where he railed against all forms of organised religion.

He was also the author of a series of books, including best-seller The Virus of Faith, which was hugely contentious in Bangladesh, an officially secular state, where around 90 per cent of people are Muslim.