Four assailants wielding cleavers and machetes hacked Ananta Bijoy Das to death on a busy street as the blogger was heading to work in the city of Sylhet, according to news reports. Kamrul Hasan, commissioner of Sylhet police, told local journalists that the four assailants fled the scene.
Das had contributed to the blog Mukto Mona — founded by Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy, who was killed in early 2015 — and was also the editor of a quarterly scientific magazine named Jukti (Reason), the reports said. He had also written numerous books, one on evolution. Das, who worked for a bank as his day job, had mainly written on science. He had also been critical of religious fundamentalism and previous attacks on secular thinkers in his writing, CNN reported.
According to news reports which cited Imran Sarker, head of an organization of secular bloggers, Das was also an activist during the 2013 Shahbag movement, which called for the death penalty for leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami party who were on trial for war crimes.
The day before he was killed, Das wrote a post on Facebook in which he criticized police for their handling of the investigation into the murders of Bangladeshi bloggers Roy and Washiqur Rahman Babu, according to The Associated Press.
Das’s murder came just weeks after the attack on Babu, who was hacked to death in the street on March 30, 2015. In February 2015, Roy and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonna, were attacked by assailants wielding sharp weapons while the couple was visiting Dhaka, according to news reports. Roy, a U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin, was killed and his wife was critically injured.
In early May 2015, an Al-Qaeda branch claimed responsibility for the attack on Roy and his wife as well as for the 2013 murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in a video posted online, according to reports. The video also urged followers to carry out other such attacks against "blasphemers."
Debasish Debu, a friend of Das, told journalists that the blogger had received threats for his writing and that the frequency of threats increased after the attack on Roy.
Police said they were investigating the murder, but no immediate arrests were made, news reports said. On May 13, 2015, The New York Times reported that Islamist extremists claimed responsibility for Das’s murder.
In March 2022, the Sylhet Anti-Terrorism Tribunal sentenced four men — Abdul Hossain, Abdul Khayer Rashid Ahmed, Faysal Ahmed, and Manumur Rashid — to death for Das’ murder, according to Al-Jazeera. Saifur Rahman Farabi was also accused, but acquitted for lack of evidence and is serving a life sentence for Roy’s murder, according to that report.
Farabi and Rashid Ahmed are in custody and were present when the verdict was read in court, according to that report. The other three convicted men are on the run.
CPJ was unable to find public statements by the defendants. Abdul Ahad, the defendants’ lawyer, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app in April 2022. Ahad told Al-Jazeera that he planned to appeal the verdict at a higher court.
The superintendent of the Sylhet district police did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app in April 2022.