DHAKA (Reuters) - A blogger was hacked to death by assailants using machetes in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Monday, the second attack in five weeks on a critic of religious extremism in the Muslim-majority nation.
Washikur Rahman, a blogger advocating secularism, was attacked by young religious students on a busy street in the center of Dhaka on Monday morning, a police official said.
“Police on duty near the spot caught two attackers with three machetes as they were fleeing the scene after the incident,” police official Humayan Kabir told Reuters.
In recent years, religious militants in Bangladesh have targeted secularist writers while the government has tried to crack down on hardline Islamist groups seeking to make it a Sharia-based state.
Last month U.S.-based blogger Avijit Roy, another secularist, was hacked to death while returning with his wife from a book fair in Dhaka. His wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, suffered head injuries and lost a finger.
Bangladesh’s government and main opposition have been locked for months in a standoff that has created a sense of deepening insecurity.
“The horrifying murder of a blogger this morning... must be a ‘wake up call’ to the authorities on the need to create a safe environment for journalists and activists to express their views,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Monday.
Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed in 2013 near his home in Dhaka after he led a protest demanding capital punishment for Islamist leaders convicted of war crimes during Bangladesh’s war for independence.
In 2004, Humayun Azad, a secular writer and professor at Dhaka University, was attacked by militants while returning home from a Dhaka book fair. He died in Germany while undergoing treatment.
Roy’s wife, Ahmed, blamed her husband’s murder in February on religious fanatics, and accused police on duty of not doing enough to stop the attack.
Mohammad Habibur Rahman, secretary of the Bangladesh Police Association and Superintendent of Police of Dhaka, said the police had been unfairly criticized.
“There are plenty of examples where our police force come forward to save people, risking their own lives,” he said.
Media group Reporters Without Borders ranked Bangladesh 146th among 180 countries for press freedom last year.
Writing by Krista Mahr; Editing by Jeremy Laurence/Ruth Pitchford