DHAKA • A gang armed with machetes hacked a blogger, known for his atheist views, to death at his home in Dhaka yesterday, in the fourth such murder in Bangladesh since the start of the year, an activist group and police said.
Mr Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen name Niloy Neel, was killed after the gang broke into his apartment, said the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, which was alerted to the attack by a witness.
"They entered his room on the fifth floor, shoved his friend aside, and then hacked him to death. He was a listed target of the Islamist militants," said Mr Imran Sarker, the network's head.
Police confirmed that Mr Chakrabarti was murdered by a group of 12 in the capital's Goran neighbourhood, although they had no details on his background or the motive for the killing.
"There were six people who knocked on his door, saying that they were looking to rent a flat," said Deputy Police Commissioner Muntashirul Islam.
"Two of them then took him to a room and then slaughtered him there," he added. "His wife was in the flat but she was confined to another room."
Mr Asif Mohiuddin, another secular blogger who himself survived an attack by militants in Bangladesh in 2013, described Mr Chakrabarti as an atheist "freethinker" whose posts appeared on several sites.
"He was critical against religions and wrote against Islamist, Hindu and Buddhist fundamentalism. He was a founding member of a rationalist organisation," said Mr Mohiuddin, who is now based in Berlin.
In his latest blog post, which was published on Aug 3, Mr Chakrabarti asked why mosques were being air-conditioned.
He is the fourth secular blogger to be killed in the Muslim-majority nation since February, when Bangladeshi-born United States citizen Avijit Roy was hacked to death in Dhaka. His wife was also badly injured in the attack.
The other victims were Mr Ananta Bijoy Das, who was attacked by a group wielding machetes on May 13 as he headed to work in Sylhet, and 27-year-old Washiqur Rahman, who was hacked to death in Dhaka in March.
Most secular bloggers have gone into hiding, often using pseudonyms in their posts, or have fled overseas. Activist groups said they fear that Islamist hit squads have hit lists which contain the full names and addresses of the bloggers.
The Bangladeshi authorities banned the hard-line Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team following Mr Das' murder in May, after facing accusations that they were doing too little to stop the vicious attacks.
In a recent petition addressed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, authors, including Mr Salman Rushdie and Ms Margaret Atwood, called on her government "to do all in its power to ensure that the tragic events of the last three months are not repeated, and to bring the perpetrators to justice".