Assailants stabbed a Bangladeshi writer to death Tuesday, police said, marking the third assassination of a prominent atheist activist in as many months.
Ananta Bijoy Das, 31, was killed in the eastern city of Sylhet, authorities said. Attackers followed him as he left his house Tuesday morning and stabbed him multiple times, including in the head, friends told local media.
The killing follows similar deadly attacks against secular writers Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman, which activists have blamed on ultraconservative Islamists who have gained prominence in Bangladesh recently.
Sylhet Metropolitan Police Commissioner Kamrul Hasan told journalists that Das was attacked around 9 a.m. and died instantly. He was declared dead at Sylhet Osmani Medical College and Hospital.
An activist colleague, who requested anonymity to shield himself from reprisals, said four assailants were involved. The identities of the attackers were not immediately known.
“Ananta was an organizer of a new local progressive publication called Jukti, which means 'logic,' and a relentless writer on science," the friend said.
Das was also a writer for Muktomona, the blog founded by slain writer Roy, a U.S. citizen who lived in the Atlanta area and was killed outside a book fair in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, in late February. A militant Islamist who threatened Roy on social media was arrested in the case but has not been charged.
For the Record
May 12, 8:25 a.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Dhaka as the capital of Indonesia.
Last week, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in South Asia claimed responsibility for the killings of Roy and Rahman, although authorities are focusing on a domestic militant organization.
Roy's family has criticized the pace of the investigation. His widow, Rafida Ahmed, this week accused the government of being “afraid of the extremists.”
“Is Bangladesh going to be the next Pakistan or Afghanistan?” Ahmed said in an interview with Voice of America.
The violence comes amid ongoing political turmoil in Bangladesh, where opponents of Prime Minister Sheik Hasina Wajed have launched public strikes and engaged in street battles with security forces that have left more than 120 people dead since January.
“The rise of this extreme form of violent Islam is occurring at a moment when Bangladeshi politics have become extremely polarized, and in a sense creating a governance vacuum,” Alyssa Ayres, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told a House panel last month.
Shahiduzzaman Paplu, a friend of Das and president of a local student union, said the killers attacked him with sharp weapons that cut through his skull to the brain.
Das blogged on science and rationalism and had written the preface to a book authored by Roy.
Special correspondent Kader reported from Dhaka and Times staff writer Bengali from Mumbai, India.