40-year-old Niloy, who used to write blog posts criticizing religious fundamentalism, is the third blogger to have been killed this year involved with Mukto-Mona, a community blog site for freethinkers that received a DW 2015 Bobs Award. Atheist blogger Avijit Roy, the founder of the site, was hacked to death this February, while blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was killed in May.
Niloy was murdered in his apartment in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, on August 7. Four assailants forcefully entered his home in the afternoon and stabbed the blogger, said Shammi Haque, a fellow activist who visited Niloy's house immediately after the attack. The blogger's wife and sister were in the apartment at the time of the attack, but the assailants locked them up in another room, Haque told DW.
Farid Ahmed, a moderator of the Mukto-Mona site, told DW that after being followed by two suspicious persons on May 15, Niloy went to the police station to lodge a general diary. But, according to Ahmed, the police refused to take his complaint and failed to provide security.
However, Monirul Islam, the chief of Dhaka police's Detective Branch, denied any such incident ever took place.
Killers follow hit list
In 2013, a hit list featuring the names of 84 bloggers was published by Islamists who the bloggers believe are seeking to eliminate them. At least 11 of the bloggers on the list have been killed in the past two years.
"Niloy's name was also on that and he was scared for his life," said Haque. The slain blogger even recently wrote on Facebook that an Islamist named Farabi Shafiur Rahman was the one to add his name to the so-called "anti-Islamic" list.
Although a religious fundamentalist group "Ansarullah Bangla Team" claimed responsibility for the previous murders this year, the police have so far named no suspects in the Niloy investigation.
"The investigation is running at a slow pace, indicating reluctance on the part of the authorities to arrest the killers," said Baki Billah, fellow activist and another close friend of Niloy.
Billah explained that Niloy was involved with an organization based on science and rationalism and very active against religious fundamentalism. "His writing was the reason behind the murder,'' Billah told DW, adding that Bangladesh's culture of impunity inspires fundamentalists to attack free thinkers.
So far one arrest has been made in relation to murder investigation of blogger Avijit Roy. In another blogger murder case two suspected killers were caught by ordinary citizens and handed over to the police.
Apart from these arrests, no other suspects have been detained. However, police chief Monirul Islam says the police believe the perpetrators are from the same group. "We are investigating the murders," he stressed.
Failure to protect bloggers
Blogger Farid Ahmed condemned the murders and blamed the Bangladeshi government for its failure to protect bloggers in danger. "The government has failed miserably to provide safety and security to secular bloggers in the country," he said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has failed to condemn any of this year's murders. Activist Haque thinks the government wants to secure voters' support by not speaking out against the murder of bloggers, known in Bangladeshi society as atheists or freethinkers. "Atheism is still a taboo in Bangladesh," said Haque.
Reporters Without Borders also issued a statement condemning Niloy's murder. The NGO criticized the government for not offering concrete protective measures to secular bloggers in the country.
"Today, we tell the authorities that they bear a significant part of the responsibility in this last murder," said the group, adding that Dhaka will also be held accountable for their failure to bring to justice the murderers of previously killed bloggers.