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Atheist writer, a U.S. citizen, hacked to death in Bangladesh

Investigators say Avijit Roy and his wife were pulled from a rickshaw and hacked with machetes.

By
Doug G. Ware

DHAKA, Bangladesh, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- An atheist blogger who has written nearly a dozen books advocating liberal secular writing -- in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh -- was found hacked to death with a machete Thursday, authorities said.

Avijit Roy, author of the "Free Mind" blog, was a well-known atheist writer in the country that is home to the world's fourth-largest Muslim population. Of Bangladeshi descent, Roy was a U.S. citizen revered for his writings by numerous colleagues.

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On Thursday, as he and his wife left a book fair, the couple were pulled off a rickshaw and attacked in the street by machete-wielding assailants, Britain's The Guardian reported. Roy was pronounced dead after he arrived at a hospital. His wife, Rafida Ahmed, lost a finger and was seriously injured.

Nonbelievers of the Muslim faith, particularly those who express their beliefs through the media, have long been targeted by Islamic extremists in Bangladesh. About two years ago, another atheist blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was killed in the exact same manner -- hacked with machetes as he left his home in Dhaka. Five members of the Islamic militant group Ansarullah Bengali Team were ultimately arrested for the murder.

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It was not immediately known whether investigators suspect the same group, or one similar, in Roy's death. Four writers have been murdered since 2004, the Guardian reported. Roy's father said his son had been receiving death threats via email and his social media channels.

Some hardline Muslim radicals in recent years have taken a violent stance regarding writings critical of Islam, with some even advocating public execution.

Police said they have recovered the machetes used in the attack but couldn't yet identify the responsible party.

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"We found some old folded newspapers inside the bag along with some other things. It seems the machetes were wrapped with the newspapers," Shahbagh police official Sohel Rana told Bangladesh News.

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