A prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger known for speaking out against religious extremism was hacked to death as he walked through Bangladesh's capital with his wife last night, police say. The attack on Avijit Roy, a Bangladesh-born US citizen believed to be about 40, occurred on a crowded sidewalk around 8:45pm as he and Rafida Ahmed were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University. A group of men ambushed the couple as they walked toward a roadside tea stall, with at least two of the attackers hitting them with meat cleavers, police say. Two blood-stained cleavers were found after the attack. Ahmed, who is also a blogger, was seriously injured; AFP reports she has lost a finger. A previously unknown militant group, Ansar Bangla 7, claimed responsibility for the attack, a police official told local media. It allegedly posted on Twitter that Roy "was the target because of his crime against Islam."
Roy was a prominent voice against religious intolerance, and his family and friends say he had been threatened for his writings. He was the founder of a popular Bengali-language blog, "Mukto-Mona," or "Free Mind," which featured articles on scientific reasoning and religion. The website has apparently been shut down since the attack, but Roy defended atheism in a January posting on Facebook, calling it "a rational concept to oppose any unscientific and irrational belief." Anujit Roy, his younger brother, says Roy had returned to the country earlier this month from the US and was planning to go back in March. "He was a free thinker. He was a Hindu, but he was not only a strong voice against Islamic fanatics but also equally against other religious fanatics," a friend and blogger says. (Read more Bangladesh stories.)