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Al Qaeda's South Asia branch says it killed atheist Bangladeshi blogger

Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the murder of Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy, according to US monitoring group. The US citizen was hacked to death in Dhaka two months ago, allegedly for his secular writings.

Asim Umar, the leader of Al Qaeda in the India Subcontinent (AQIS), said in a video on Monday that his organization killed atheist Bangladeshi blogger, Avijit Roy, according to SITE, a US website that monitors extremist groups.

The AQIS leader also claimed responsibility for the assassination of a number of other "blasphemers" in the Muslim-majority South Asian country.

Forty-year-old Roy and his 36-year-old wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, were walking near Dhaka University on February 26 when they were attacked by unidentified assailants carrying machetes.

Bangladeshi authorities had earlier said a local Islamist group, Ansarullah Bangla Team, which claimed it killed Roy shortly after the attack, was behind the blogger's murder.

Hundreds of protesters rallied in Dhaka on Friday to denounce the murder of a prominent American blogger of Bangladeshi origin hacked to death with machetes after he allegedly received threats from Islamists (Photo: DW)

Hundreds of protesters rallied in Dhaka to denounce Roy's murder and Islamic fundamentalism

"Now we have to investigate whether this Team is working as al Qaeda's branch," Dhaka police chief Muhammad Habibur Rahman told Reuters news agency.

The South Asian country's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) force, which is tasked with tackling militancy in Bangladesh, was also skeptical of the AQIS' claims: "We are not sure," RAB's spokesman Mufti Mahmud told AFP news agency on Monday when asked whether al Qaeda killed Roy and two other secular Bangladeshi writers, Ahmed Rajib Haider and Washiqur Rahman.

Haider was killed in 2013 and Rahman in March – both hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants.

Upholding secularism

Islamist groups are targeting bloggers in Bangladesh, who are using online platforms as a means of free speech in an otherwise restricted setting.

Roy was well known for his writings on philosophy and human rights issues. He was also an atheist and fierce government critic. He received numerous death threats prior to his killing.

In an interview with DW on April 27, Roy's wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed claimed "religious fundamentalists" killed her husband because of his writings.

Ahmed is recipient of this year's DW's The Bobs award in the Social Change category. Despite the serious injuries she suffered, Ahmed has refused to be silenced by Islamist extremists.

shs/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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