Dr. Avijit Roy, 42, of Atlanta, Georgia, was hacked to death in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for writing about his beliefs.
Roy, a secular humanist, ran a Bengali-language blog called Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) which promoted secularism, The Guardian reported. He also wrote for the U.S.-based Center of Inquiry, according to the New York Times. He was highly critical of religious extremism, and as of late, he had repeatedly spoken out against Islamic extremism.
Roy’s views led to his murder. On Feb. 26, Roy and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonya, 45, were leaving a book fair when they were attacked from behind by a group of men wielding machetes.
The militant group Ansar Bangla 7 took responsibility for this attack, claiming Roy had committed "crime against Islam."
Jibon Ahmed, a local photographer, told the New York Times he heard screams coming from outside the fair and went to investigate. He then found the couple and took them to the hospital.
“[Roy] died as he was brought to the hospital,” local police chief Sirajul Islam told The Guardian. "His wife was also seriously wounded. She has lost a finger."
The assailants have not been apprehended.
“Avijit’s killing once again proved that there is a culture of impunity in the country,” Imran Sarker, the head of the Bangladesh bloggers’ association, told Agence France-Presse. “The government must arrest the killers in 24 hours or face non-stop protests.”
Police have not confirmed that religious radicals perpetrated the attack, but Roy’s father said his son frequently received threats. Several Muslim extremist groups have demanded that atheist bloggers be publicly killed, and Roy is the fourth writer attacked since 2004.
In a statement, The Center for Inquiry said: "Dr Roy was a true ally, a courageous and eloquent defender of reason, science, and free expression, in a country where those values have been under heavy attack.”
Sarker also condemned the attack: “The attack on Roy and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, is outrageous. We strongly protest this attack and are deeply concerned about the safety of writers.”
Roy’s friend and fellow blogger, Pinaki Bhattacharya wrote on Facebook: “In Bangladesh the easiest target is an atheist. An atheist can be attacked and murdered.”
Another atheist blogger was hacked to death in 2013 by a militant Islam group.
“The pattern of the killing appeared to be the same as that of previous attack on a celebrated writer,” said Shiblee Noman, assistant commissioner of Dhaka police. “It seems it was carried out by a reactionary fundamentalist group.”
Though Bangladesh is considered a secular country, Sarker said the government is cracking down on bloggers like Roy. “Communal and militant groups have threatened the very spirit of our nation,” he said. "Yet instead of crushing them, the government was keen on appeasing them by arresting secular bloggers."
The message on Roy’s website reads, in Bengali, “We are grieving, but we shall overcome.”