Prof Zafar Iqbal comes under knife attack on university campus; assailant held

Celebrated writer Prof Muhammed Zafar Iqbal has become the latest victim of a series of attacks on secular writers, bloggers and online activists.

Manzur Ahmed and Hossain
Published : 3 March 2018, 12:14 PM
Updated : 3 March 2018, 12:14 PM

The teacher sustained stab injuries in the back, arm and in head from an iron rod the lone assailant used during an event at his Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in Sylhet on Saturday.

Iqbal, a computer science and engineering professor at the university, was airlifted to the Combined Military Hospital or CMH Saturday midnight after being treated at Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital.

"Though he was bleeding profusely, he was still able to speak," a witness said.

Doctors at the Sylhet hospital said the 64-year-old was out of danger after they stitched all around 25 wounds. 

They said they found four wounds on Prof Iqbal’s head, which seemed to be from the hit by an iron rod, and there were knife wounds on his back and left hand.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, condemning the attack on the writer-teacher, ordered officials to take quick steps to bring the attackers to justice.    

One person, identified as a resident of an area adjacent to the university, has been detained in connection with the attack.

The law enforcers said citing the suspect that he carried out the attack ‘to kill Prof Iqbal because he is an enemy of Islam’.    

Police have been providing security for Prof Iqbal since October 2016 following death threats from Islamist militants.

At least three policemen stood within a few yards from the seats on the stage where the professor sat during the attack around 5:50pm.

It was a festival organised by the electrical and electronic engineering department. Iqbal was the chief guest at the event.

Five more teachers were also on the stage along with Iqbal as judges of a competition. The department’s Assistant Professor Jibesh Kanti Saha told “It was the final round of the completion. A boy stabbed him from behind.”     

Proctor Zahir Uddin Ahmed told “A boy came from behind the stage and stabbed his neck, chest and mouth. Police and others immediately detained him.”

The unidentified detainee is being kept at the university’s Academic Building-2.

The suspect was initially kept at the university’s Academic Building-2. The students beat him up before handing him over to the police. 

Photos from SUST showed the young, bearded suspect lying on the floor with blood on his face.

Witnesses said an accomplice of the suspect was waiting on a motorcycle outside the venue of the programme. He fled immediately after the attack, they said.

At a media briefing in Sylhet after midnight, the Rapid Action Battalion said they were checking whether the suspect had any accomplices and link with militants.

Students from Shahjalal University began agitating after the attack.

“Things are heated up here,” Jalalabad Police Station OC Shafiqul Islam Swapan told “The students are causing vandalism. Police are working to bring the situation under control."

Demonstrations were also held at several places across the country, including the capital.

Activists of Ganajgaran Mancha, Prgatisheel Jote, Sachetan Nagorik Samaj, Slogan Ekattor and some other organisations gathered in front of the National Museum in Shahbagh around 7pm.

They took out a torch procession and held a rally. They also announced to resume the protests at 4pm on Sunday.

After the hacking murder of writer-blogger Avijit Roy in February 2015, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niladri Chatterjee Niloy, Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das, Faisal Arefin Dipan and several other writers, bloggers, online-activists were subjected to similar attacks.

Humayun Azad, the legendary writer and professor of Bangla literature at Dhaka University was hacked on Feb 27, 2004, on the campus. Azad, a linguist, went to Germany for research in August that year after treatment. He was found dead in his flat in Munich on Aug 12 the same year.

Students have beat up the attacker.

Attacker ‘a madrasa student’

As the photos of the suspect spread on the mainstream media and the social media, locals of Sheikhparha neighbourhood next to the campus identified the attacker as Faizur Rahman Faizul, identified himself as a madrasa student.

Several residents of the area told Faizur’s father Maulana Atiqur Rahman, who hails from Sunamganj’s Derai, is a teacher of a madrasa at Tukerbazar near Sylhet-Sunamganj Highway.    

Sylhet Metropolitan Police Commissioner Golam Kibria told Faizur lived with his family in Sheikhparha and worked at a computer shop.

RAB-9 Commander Lt Col Ali Haider Azad Ahmed in Sylhet briefed the media about the detention of Faizur after midnight.

He said Faizur told them he was a student of Alia Madrasa in Sylhet, but the law enforcers could not confirm the information.

Faizur also told the law enforcers that he attacked the professor ‘to kill him because he was an enemy of Islam’, according to the RAB official.

Ali Haider also said they were checking whether Faizur had any link with any militant organisation.  

Jalalabad police Station OC Shafiqul Islam said they arrested Faizur’s maternal uncle Fazlur Rahman in a drive on Sheikhparha area late in the night.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher