Angry protesters took to the streets in Bangladesh on Sunday blaming the government’s inaction for the murders of secular writers and publishers in the country, even as the home minister termed the attacks claimed by al-Qaeda in the Indian sub-continent as “isolated incidents”.
The protests came a day after secular publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan, 43, was killed in his third-floor office in central Dhaka. Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, a publisher who worked with slain atheist writer and blogger Avijit Roy and bloggers Ranadipam Basu, 50, and Tareque Rahim, 30, were hacked by unidentified assailants in a separate incident.
A group identifying itself as Ansar al-Islam --Bangladesh chapter of al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) -- claimed responsibility for the attacks. Six writers and bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh in the past two and half years, five of them since January this year with families and friends of the deceased alleging failure on the part of police in bringing perpetrators to justice.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Kamal said the attacks on publishers and bloggers were “isolated incidents”. Speaking to reporters, he claimed the country’s law and order situation was all right.
Asked why such incidents were taking place repeatedly, Kamal said, “Such isolated incidents occur in other countries as well.” Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) joint commissioner Monirul Islam said that the police is investigating the claims made by Ansar al-Islam, a militant group suspected to be under the banned Ansarullah Bangla Team umbrella.
“This is not a typical crime as it is a preplanned targeted killing. So it is difficult to capture the killers,” said Monirul. When asked if such targeted attacks can be prevented, he said, “Visible policing is not enough to prevent such incidents. We need a special counter terrorism unit which we don’t have.”
In primary investigation, he said, it is evident that the attackers are not trained killers. “We cannot say for sure if this attack on the publishers is related to the previous attacks on bloggers without further investigation,” he said.
Another leading publisher Farid Ahmed on Sunday alleged unidentified assailants sent him an SMS issuing a death threat for publishing books authored by “atheists”. Saturday’s attacks sparked widespread anger with different rights groups and social organisations staging street marches in the capital and elsewhere today, slamming police failures to ensure security and demanding immediate government action to bring the perpetrators of the crimes to justice.