Bangladesh teachers, students rally against latest killing
DHAKA, Bangladesh – Protesters rallied in Bangladesh on Sunday, November 1, against the latest gruesome attacks on secular writers and publishers, accusing the government of failing to halt rising deadly violence blamed on hardline Islamists.
Teachers, writers, students and other protesters converged on Dhaka University, one day after a gang of suspected Islamists armed with machetes and cleavers hacked to death a publisher of secular books. (READ: Secular blogger hacked to death)
Two secular bloggers and another publisher were also badly injured in a similar and separate attack in Dhaka on Saturday, leaving them lying in pools of blood in their office.
"First they targeted the writers, and now the publishers and soon they'll target all of us," Samina Lutfa, a teacher at the university, told the rally of hundreds of protesters.
"Don't stay at home, come out on the street and protest these killings," she said at the campus, Bangladesh's secular bastion, as similar peaceful rallies were staged elsewhere in the country.
Fears of Islamist violence have been rising in mainly moderate Muslim-majority Bangladesh after four atheist bloggers were murdered this year, also by machete-wielding attackers.
Bangladesh has also been rocked by the recent murders of an Italian aid worker and a Japanese farmer, while Dhaka's main Shiite shrine was bombed last weekend, killing two people and wounded dozens.
The government has accused its political opponents of orchestrating those attacks to destabilize the country, rejecting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group’s claim of responsibility.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for Saturday's attacks, along with the four previous ones, branding the victims "blasphemers" and warning that any writers who criticize Islam will be next in line.
Dhaka police said they were investigating the AQIS claim, but believed militants belonging to a banned local outfit were responsible for them all.
"We suspect the attacks were carried out by a group which could be part of the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) umbrella," Dhaka police spokesman Muntashirul Islam told Agence France-Presse.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government has launched a crackdown on local Islamist groups after facing Western criticism this year of failing to stop the bloodshed.
'Get ready for death'
Police said Faisal Arefin Dipan, 43, was killed in his third-floor publishing office in central Dhaka on Saturday, with his attackers padlocking the door from the outside as they left.
Dipan published several books by Avijit Roy, a US national of Bangladeshi origin, who was hacked to death outside a book fair in February in the capital.
Hours before Dipan's murder, three unidentified attackers entered another publishing office, Shuddhaswar, and attacked its owner along with two secular bloggers, police said.
Shuddhaswar owner Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, 43, also previously brought out several of Roy's books including one on homosexuality. All three victims remain in hospital.
Bloggers say about a dozen secular writers have fled the country in fear following this year's killings, while some have faced threats themselves from Islamists.
"It's a failure of the government that it has not been able to prosecute the killers," said Imran Sarker, head of a secular bloggers' group, which organized the protests.
"There is a climate of impunity in which these militants now operate brazenly," he said.
A publisher said he was also threatened on Sunday and now feared for his life.
"You've published a lot of books of atheists. Now get ready for death," Farid Ahmed, owner of Somoy Prokshon, told Agence France-Presse of the anonymous text message. – Shafiqul Alam, Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com