DHAKA: Protesters rallied in Bangladesh yesterday against the latest gruesome attacks on secular writers and publishers, accusing the government of failing to halt rising deadly violence blamed on hardline Islamists. Teachers, writers, students and other protesters converged on Dhaka University, one day after a gang of suspected Islamists armed with machetes and cleavers hacked to death a publisher of secular books. Two secular bloggers and another publisher were also badly injured in a similar and separate attack in Dhaka on Saturday, leaving them lying in pools of blood in their office.
“First they targeted the writers, and now the publishers and soon they’ll target all of us,” Samina Lutfa, a teacher at the university, told the rally of hundreds of protesters. “Don’t stay at home, come out on the street and protest these killings,” she said at the campus, Bangladesh’s secular bastion, as similar peaceful rallies were staged elsewhere in the country.
Fears of Islamist violence have been rising in mainly moderate Muslim-majority Bangladesh after four atheist bloggers were murdered this year, also by machete-wielding attackers. Bangladesh has also been rocked by the recent murders of an Italian aid worker and a Japanese farmer, while Dhaka’s main Shiite shrine was bombed last weekend, killing two people and wounded dozens. The government has accused its political opponents of orchestrating those attacks to destabilize the country, rejecting the Islamic State group’s claim of responsibility.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks, along with the four previous ones, branding the victims “blasphemers” and warning that any writers who criticize Islam will be next in line. Dhaka police said they were investigating the AQIS claim, but believed militants belonging to a banned local outfit were responsible for them all.
“We suspect the attacks were carried out by a group which could be part of the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) umbrella,” Dhaka police spokesman Muntashirul Islam told AFP. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has launched a crackdown on local Islamist groups after facing Western criticism this year of failing to stop the bloodshed