Unidentified miscreants hacked blogger and writer Avijit Roy to death and seriously injured his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonna at the TSC roundabout on Dhaka University campus last night.
The physical condition of Bonna, who was undergoing treatment at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, was said to be stable but critical when this report was being filed early today. Avijit’s body was kept at the DMCH morgue late last night.
The Dhaka Tribune has learned that Avijit recently received threats from militants for his progressive books and blog posts.
Avijit was still alive when the couple was admitted to the DMCH immediately after the attack that took place around 9pm. Avijit died around 10:30pm, confirmed Shahbagh police station OC Sirajul Islam. “We are still unclear about the identity of the criminals. But, police suspect that those who attacked Prof Humayun Azad are behind this attack as well. There are similarities between the style of the two attacks.”
Witnesses said the couple was returning from the Amar Ekushey Book Fair around 9pm. When they reached the Bot-tola area at the TSC roundabout, a CNG-run autorickshaw stopped near them, three young men got down and started hacking them mercilessly with machetes.
Witnesses also said the attack took place right in front of a police barricade that was put up to restrict vehicular movement on the adjacent road for the ongoing book fair.
Akram Hossain, a witness, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Bonna tried to block the hits and lost a finger. In a matter of seconds, the attackers just disappeared.”
Visiting the spot, the Dhaka Tribune correspondents saw blood stains on the spot on the footpath where the criminals hacked Avijit and Bonna. Police have cordoned off the area. A severed finger was found at the crime scene and police personnel could be seen collecting evidence.
Dr Sohel Ahmed, duty doctor at the DMCH Emergency Unit, told the Dhaka Tribune that Avijit had died of excessive bleeding and an internal brain injury.
"We have done a CT scan on Bonna and are giving her the best possible treatment,” Dr Sohel said.
Dhaka University acting proctor Prof Amzad Ali, who went to the DMCH soon after the incident, said: “We are yet to get any information on the attackers. But I have learned that he [Avijit] had often received threats for his writings. He might have been killed for this reason.”
Avijit’s father Prof Ajit Roy, a former professor of physics at Dhaka University, also went to see his son and daughter-in-law but refused to make any comment.
When contacted, Shibli Noman, assistant commissioner of Police’s Ramna Division, told the Dhaka Tribune that the attackers might belong to some radical Islamist militant groups who did not like Avijit’s writings.
“Analysing the case histories of writer Professor Humayun Azad and blogger Rajeeb Haider’s murders, we have found similarities with this incident,” Shibli said.
“We recovered two machetes and a bag from the spot but have not arrested anyone as yet,” he added.
Avijit Roy, an engineer by profession, was the administrator of the blogging site named Muktomona. He and his wife Bonna were both US residents. They came to Bangladesh on February 15 because two of his books got published in this year’s book fair.
The two books, “Biswaser Virus” (Virus in Faith) and “Sunyo Theke Mahabiswa” (The Universe from Zero) were published by Shudhishor Publication.
Avijit has written a total of nine books so far. After coming to Dhaka, he had been living in a house in Dhanmondi with his wife.
He was also an active supporter of the Gonojagoron Moncho, a youth-based platform initiated by online activists who demanded capital punishment for all war criminals.
The Dhaka Tribune has learned that Avijit featured at the top of a hit list that was prepared by a person named Farabi Shafiur Rahman with whom the blogger had often had confrontations in virtual space regarding religious issues.
Badhon, a contributor of Avijit’s blogging site Muktomona, told the Dhaka Tribune: “It [the attack] is most definitely a work of the fundamentalist groups who used to threaten Avijit. Farabi Shafiur Rahman has openly declared before that he would take action against Avijit.”
In 2014, online bookstore Rokomari.com stopped selling Avijit’s books after Farabi Shafiur Rahman issued death threats on Facebook to the website’s owner.
When contacted, Additional Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Shaikh Mohammad Maruf Hassan said yesterday: “Our officials, divided into separate groups, have started investigating into the incident. We hope to hunt down and arrest the attackers soon.”
Writer Humayun Azad, also a professor of Bangla at Dhaka University, was mercilessly hacked by assailants on February 27, 2004. He too was returning from the book fair on that day and the assailants used machetes just like the attackers did with Avijit and Bonna. Prof Azad later died in Germany but his death is still shrouded in mystery.
Blogger Rajeeb Haider, another active supporter of the Gonojagoron Moncho, was killed in much the same fashion near Shahbagh in Feburary 2013.
Investigators have found the involvement of militancy groups behind those murders and attacks, both of which took place in the month of February.