A Bangladeshi-American blogger known for his antipathy to religion was hacked to death on the street in this capital city by two assailants wielding machetes, the police said Friday.
The victim, Avijit Roy, 42, was leaving a book fair with his wife Thursday evening when his attackers approached him from behind, according to the police. His wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonya, 45, suffered a blow to the head and was in critical condition in a Dhaka hospital, said Sirajul Islam, an officer at the Shahbag police station, where Roy's father reported the assault.
Jibon Ahmed, a photographer for a local photo agency, said by phone that he heard screams outside the fair around 9 p.m. After finding the couple, he said, he helped them into an auto-rickshaw and took them to the hospital, where Roy died.
The police have not named any suspects, but Islam said that witnesses had provided descriptions of the attackers. Officers recovered two bloodied machetes from the scene of the crime.
Roy was a prolific writer on secularism and condemned religious extremism, particularly through his blog, Mukto-Mona, the Bengali words for Free Mind. He also wrote on the website of the Center for Inquiry, an organization based in the United States dedicated to humanist thinking and critiques of religion.
In a recent article, Roy described the release of his 2014 book, "Biswasher Virus," or "The Virus of Faith."
"The death threats started flowing to my email inbox on a regular basis," he wrote, describing reaction after the book came out. One extremist, he wrote, "issued death threats to me through his numerous Facebook statuses." In one, the extremist wrote: "Avijit Roy lives in America and so it is not possible to kill him right now. But he will be murdered when he comes back."
Michael De Dora, the director of the Center for Inquiry's office of public policy, reacted to news of Roy's death in a statement on the center's website.
Krishna Pada Roy, a deputy commissioner of detectives with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said Friday that the police were investigating possible motives for the killing, including extremist zeal.
In 2013, another Bangladeshi blogger, Rajib Haider, was killed by unknown attackers. He had helped organize protests that year demanding harsher punishment for perpetrators of crimes in Bangladesh's 1971 war for independence, and was also a fierce critic of the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami.
In 2004, Humayun Azad, a prominent writer and a teacher at Dhaka University, was seriously wounded in a machete attack after he attended the same book fair that Roy went to on Thursday, according to local news media reports.
Activists and intellectuals gathered at Dhaka University on Friday to protest Roy's death and demand action against those responsible.
"This has been going on in Bangladesh," he said by telephone. "The bloggers have different religious viewpoints and we're being attacked again and again, and we're not getting justice."
"Using religion in the attempt to resist freethinking will not be accepted," Khushi Kabir, a rights campaigner, told The Dhaka Tribune.