Niladri Chatterjee Niloy was killed in front of his wife at his flat in east Gorhan on Friday afternoon, Khilgaon Police Station OC Mustafizur Rahman said.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal promised to catch the killers ‘soon’, even as police have failed to crack cases in regard to the killings of three other blog activists earlier this year.
Niloy, 27, was an activist of the Ganajagaran Mancha, the popular movement demanding maximum penalty for war crimes convicts and outlawing of religion-based politics.
Niloy, who wrote against communalism and fundamentalism, was known as Niloy Neel on social networking sites and he used to blog under this name on website ‘Istishon’ (Station).
He recently received numerous threats for his writings and his stand against radicalism, said people close to him.
Those threats made him to take down all his photos from his Facebook page and use Kolkata as the current city.
In one of his posts on Facebook three months ago, he said he knew he was a target of the extremists.
Niloy wanted to file a general diary (GD) but police ‘advised him to leave the country as early as possible’ instead, read the May 15 post.
Khilgaon police OC Rahman told bdnews24.com five assailants armed with machetes entered the flat in two groups after the Juma prayers.
Niloy, who worked in an NGO, had been living with his wife Asha Moni for the past two years in the flat, which was sublet, since they got married in court without consent of their families.
OC Rahman said the attackers entered his home on the pretext that they wanted to rent a flat. “They fled right after slaughtering Niloy.”
DMP’s Detective Branch Joint Commissioner Krishnapada Roy told reporters at the crime scene, “There were signs of haphazard hacking on Niloy's throat and neck.”
“The nature of the attack is very similar to those on other bloggers murdered earlier,” he said.
Radical militants earlier killed four other pro-liberation bloggers and legendary writer Humayun Azad in the same style of attack. Upper parts of the body, particularly head and neck, were the main targets.
Niloy is the fourth blogger to have been murdered this year after Avijit Roy, Oyasiqur Rahman Babu and Ananta Bijoy Das.
He was hacked to death in the same way as the others.
The ‘Bangladesh branch’ of al-Qaeda in Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) has claimed responsibility for the latest murder.
An e-mail sent out to the media said the AQIS carried out the killing and threatened more such attacks on secular blog activists.
But police say they have no information about AQIS or al-Qaeda proper’s involvement.
The UN, US and Amnesty International have condemned the killing and called upon the authorities to bring to justice the killers in a swift manner.
Joint Commissioner Roy said Niloy’s murder right after Juma prayers was ‘planned’.
“They (assailants) chose to kill him at this time of the day because the men of the families in the building had gone to offer Juma prayers.”
Niloy's wife Asha Moni, who was in the flat along with her younger sister during the murder, told reporters in the evening four youths slaughtered her husband.
She said she opened the door when one of the assailants first knocked and asked about renting the flat.
When he started texting someone on his mobile phone, she grew suspicious and called Niloy, who was in the bedroom at the time.
“As Niloy asked the youth to leave, three others got in. One of them had beard. This man cried ‘Naraye Takbeer, Allahu Akbar’ and hacked Niloy in the hand right,” said a grief-stricken Moni.
She said the attackers locked her in one of the verandas of the flat as she started screaming and begging for her husband’s life. They also kept her sister confined to the flat’s other veranda.
Moni said she had cried for help from the veranda.
“One of the four youths was wielding a pistol. We did not find Niloy’s laptop since the assailants left,” she added.
Outpouring of anger
Imran H Sarker, the Ganajagaran Mancha spokesperson, told bdnews24.com that Niloy, an activist of the platform, was a regular blogger.
Niloy’s Facebook wall was flooded with posts expressing anger right after the word of his murder got out.
Some expressed condolences, others shared their helplessness while some others raised question about the security of free thinkers in Bangladesh.
“This is unacceptable... the spate of savage killings must end here,” an Amnesty statement quoted David Griffiths, its South Asia Research Director, as saying.
Joyce Anelay, UK’s Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, tweeted that she was “appalled at Niloy’s murder”.
“Perpetrators must be brought to justice and free speech in #Bangladesh defended robustly,” she tweeted.
One of the protesters wrote on Niloy’s Facebook wall: “...The government (should) say how many more bodies it needs to begin the trial.”
On the news of Niloy’s murder, Mancha activists and leaders of Left-leaning student organisations thronged the North Gorhan building.
Agitated by the recent murders of writers and bloggers, Mancha activist Shammi Haque told police officials at the scene, “You’ve failed to arrest the killers of Avijit (Roy). You’ll fail in this case again.”
Four down in six months
Religious extremists have long targeted secular writers in Bangladesh.
In 2004, machete-wielding men attacked Humayun Azad, the prolific writer and former Dhaka University teacher, on the campus.
Rajshahi University teacher AKM Shafiul Islam died in a similar attack last November near the university.
In February, writer-blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death near the Dhaka University’s TSC. His wife and fellow blogger Rafida Ahmed Bonya was badly injured in the brutal attack.
A month later, another online activist Oyasiqur Rahman Babu was killed in a similar fashion in the capital’s Tejgaon.
Two months on, secular blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was killed in Sylhet.
In May, global terror network al-Qaeda's Indian offshoot claimed credit for the killing of secular bloggers in Bangladesh whom it described as 'blasphemers'.
All three killed before Niloy were also involved with the Ganajagaran Mancha.
Radical group Ansaruallah Bangla Team’s two suspected wings - Ansar Bangla 7 and Ansar Bangla 8 - had also claimed responsibility on social media for the deaths.
Two years ago, when the Ganajagaran Mancha movement was at its peak, its activist Ahmed Rajib Haider, another blogger, was slaughtered near his Mirpur home in Dhaka.