Bangladeshi writer killed in cold blood by suspected Islamists

After a lull in murders of secular writers and publishers in Bangladesh by local Islamist groups, a leading leftist writer was shot dead by unidentified attackers on Monday, police said.

Shahzahan Bachchu, 60, (Pictured – Image courtesy: Twitter), who ran a publishing house Bishaka Prokashoni, was dragged out of a shop and killed in cold blood by five motorcycle-borne Islamist suspects in his ancestral village Kakaldi in Munshiganj district.

According to police, Bachchu had gone to meet some friends at a drug store near his home when the suspects came on two motorcycles and exploded a crude bomb near the pharmacy to create panic, Dhaka Tribune reported.

After people in nearby shops fled in panic, the suspects dragged Bachchu out of the shop, shot him and sped away.

No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the killing.

Bachchu had previously received threats from local extremist groups for his secularist views. He was a former district general secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh. His publishing house based in Dhaka’s Bangla Bazaar used to bring out poetry books.

The murder of Bachchu proves that freedom of expression is in peril in Bangladesh, PEN America, a cultural group that works to advance literature, defend free expression, and foster international literary fellowship, said.

Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America, urged authorities in Dhaka to bring those behind the murder to justice.

Such attacks should not be tolerated. Impunity in such cases will only encourage further assaults on free expression, Karlekar said.

Since 2015, there has been a wave of attacks by religious extremists on bloggers and social activists. Atheist and blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death in Dhaka on February 26, 2015. His publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan was also killed on October 31 that year.

Although ‘Islamic State’ has claimed responsibility for most of these attacks, police say the perpetrators were actually local Islamist groups which used the ‘Islamic State’ tag to get noticed.