Blogger Ananta Bijoy seems to be the latest in a series of fatal Islamist attacks on free thinkers in Bangladesh. The killings have frightened Dhaka's bloggers, Bijoy's friend and colleague Asif Mohiuddin tells DW.
DW: Ananta Bijoy Das, a blogger who had a day job in a bank, was hacked to death on Tuesday, in what's thought to be another Islamist murder. Asif, do you think Ananta Bijoy was aware of such a possibility?
Asif Mohiuddin: I was trying to help Ananta Bijoy for the last two months to get out of the country. I was trying to get his papers together and had submitted them to some organizations to get him out because he was being threatened for a long time.
He was in the hit list. He told me many times that he was on the [terrorists'] hit list and that he was still at home because of the threats. Some people attacked his house a few months ago and he was afraid and panicking. I told him not to go out of the house, but he had to go to work. He was my good friend and I am very upset about this.
How are people in Bangladesh reacting to the killing?
The bloggers I know are in a state of panic right now. Some of them have stopped writing and some are hiding themselves. Some of them want to get out of the country. This is the ninth such murder since 2013. In 2013, I was attacked and blogger Rajiv Haider was killed next month. Many other bloggers have been attacked in the last two years.
What steps has the government taken to reduce such incidents?
My personal assumption is, the government is supporting fundamentalists. Maybe they don't care or maybe they are afraid of them, I don't know, but after the death of Avijit Roy, our prime minister [Sheikh Hasina] spoke to his father, Ajay Roy. This was never mentioned to the media. It was a secret call to say sorry, because our prime minister thinks that if she supports atheists, it would project a bad image for her party.
Our leaders don't want to be seen as supporters of secularists or atheists. They want to show others that they are very Islamist and this is the reason why fundamentalists have the courage to kill bloggers.
What exactly do you mean when you say "atheist writing?"
Our writing is logical writing, related to science and reason. We call ourselves atheist and we don't believe in God or any religion.
Do you think these fundamentalists have support from common people?
No. In many Islamic countries, people don't support Islamists, but they think that if someone criticizes Islam or Prophet Muhammad, those people should be punished by death penalty or any other punishment. Many people say, ok, this person was an atheist and he died.
How do such incidents happen out in the open, on the streets? Where is the police in such cases?
It all happens very quickly. When they attacked me, it lasted barely 30 seconds, but I was badly injured. And Avijit Roy's wife told me that the attack on them had lasted a minute at the most. Before people around the victims can react, the murderers run away.
These killers, usually from Ansar-ul-Bangla [linked to al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent], have a strong base in Bangladesh. They operate through so-called "sleeping cells," which react sometimes or stay in hiding. Imams of mosques in Bangladesh belong to the Ansar-ul-Bangla, but the men who actually go and kill know nothing about al Qaeda.
I once asked a police detective why no one had been caught for Avijit Roy's murder. He said atheists had to die this way. This was normal.
What about your safety and your family's?
I am afraid. My family is in Bangladesh. They're safe. I live in Germany, but I don't feel safe, because they [terrorists] have a strong base and my name has been on their hit list for a long time.
Asif Mohiuddin is a blogger from Bangladesh and is in Germany on a scholarship, after having survived jail in Dhaka and a brutal 2013 attack by Islamists. The liberal author won the DW Best of Blogs award in 2012 for his blog "God, Almighty only in name but impotent in reality."