New York, June 28, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns yesterday’s murder of Humayun Kabir, editor of the Bangla-language daily Janmabhumi, who was killed in a bomb attack in the southwestern city of Khulna.
At around 12 p.m., an unidentified assailant threw two bombs at Kabir outside his home while he was exiting his car with his family, according to local news reports. Witnesses told the English-language Daily Star that the assailant, posing as a peanut seller, approached Kabir and tossed at least two homemade bombs at him, fatally injuring him in the abdomen and the legs. Kabir was taken to Khulna Medical College Hospital and died soon after. Kabir’s son Asif also suffered minor injuries on his legs and was treated at a local clinic.
An underground leftist group known as Janajuddha (People’s War), a faction of the Purbo Banglar Communist Party, claimed responsibility for the murder in phone calls to several local newspapers and journalists yesterday, according to local journalists.
Kabir, 58, was a veteran journalist and the president of the Khulna Press Club. He published bold articles criticizing the organized crime that plagues Bangladesh’s troubled southwestern region. After his friend and fellow journalist Manik Saha was murdered in a similar attack earlier this year, Kabir criticized the criminal elements implicated in Saha’s killing. Janajuddha also claimed responsibility for Saha’s murder. Kabir had recently been receiving death threats, according to local news reports.
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and other high-ranking government officials condemned Kabir’s brutal murder and pledged to find and punish those responsible. Local journalists’ groups spoke out against the murder and called for a week of mourning.
Local police said today that they have detained nine suspects in connection with Kabir’s murder, the BBC reported.
Local journalists call Khulna division, notorious for its violence against the press, “the valley of death.” Kabir was the sixth journalist to be murdered there in the last four years, according to CPJ research. Manik Saha was killed on January 15; Harunur Rashid, a reporter for the Bengali-language newspaper Dainik Purbanchal, was shot and killed by gunmen on March 2, 2002; and Nahar Ali, a correspondent for the Khulna-based, Bengali-language daily Anirban, died as a result of injuries sustained after being beaten by unknown assailants on April 21, 2001. Mir Illias Hossain, editor of the newspaper Dainik Bir Darpan, was assassinated in the southwestern town of Jhenaidah on January 15, 2000; and Shamsur Rahman, a special correspondent for the Bengali-language national daily Janakantha and a frequent contributor to the BBC’s Bengali-language service, was shot and killed in Jessore on July 16, 2000.
On June 20, police charged 12 people in the murder of Manik Saha, but local journalists say that those responsible for organizing the killing have not been arrested, and that it is unlikely that they will ever be brought to justice. No one has been charged in any of the other murders.
“We are shocked and saddened by the violent murder of our colleague Hamayun Kabir,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Authorities must pursue and prosecute Kabir’s killers to the fullest extent of the law and do everything in their power to make Bangladesh a safer country for the press.”