Dhaka: Machete-wielding Islamists today brutally hacked to death a 40-year-old secular Bangladeshi blogger at his flat here with terror group Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent claiming responsibility for the murder, the fourth such attack in less than six months in the country.
Niloy Chakrabarty Neel, popularly known by his pen name Niloy Neel, was killed by assailants inside his fifth-floor flat at North Gorhan in the capital Dhaka where he lived with his family.
The five assailants entered the flat after Friday prayers, pushed his wife and one of his friends aside and then hacked him to death. The murder sparked protests in the city.
"The assassins used machetes... It appears they hit him repeatedly until he was dead," Mostafizur Rahman, officer in charge of the police station in the neighbourhood, told a news agency.
He said Neel, an official of an NGO, was known for his secular write ups in blogs.
Ansar-Al-Islam, Bangladesh chapter of al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent, claimed responsibility for the killing terming him an enemy of Allah.
"Alhamdulillah! Mujahidin of Ansar-Al-Islam carried out an operation to slaughter an enemy of Allah..." the group said in a statement.
However, the authenticity of the e-mail issued by Mufti Abdullah Ashraf, who claimed himself to be the spokesman of Ansar-Al-Islam, could not be verified independently.
The blogger recently received numerous threats for his writings and stance against radicalism.
"There were signs of haphazard hacking on Niloy's throat and neck," Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Detective Branch Joint Commissioner Krishnapada Roy told reporters.
Roy said Niloy's murder right after Friday prayers was 'planned'.
"They (assailants) chose to kill him at this time of the day because the men of the families close by had gone to attend the Juma (Friday) prayers."
Neel had removed all his photos from his Facebook page and mentioned Kolkata as his current location after he had started getting the threats, it said.
One of Neel's friends Suprity Dhar told a news agency that he used to study in India and returned to Bangladesh a year ago.
Neel was an activist of a platform -- the Ganajagaran Mancha which waged a massive campaign for the capital punishment for war criminals who carried out atrocities siding with the Pakistani troops in 1971.
"Niloy was also a regular blogger...He was a target of the Islamists," Imran H Sarker, the Ganajagaran Mancha spokesperson, said, adding the attackers had entered the building posing as potential tenants. Criminal Investigation Department (CID) joined the police in collecting evidence related to the incident.
Neel's murder is the fourth such brutal murder in the country. Machete-wielding masked men in May hacked to death 33-year-old Ananta Bijoy Das, a secular blogger, in Sylhet city.
Assailants in February had killed 45-year old Avijit Roy, a Bangladesh-born US national, here while his wife narrowly escaped the attack.
A month after Roy's killing, another blogger Washiqur Rahman was murdered in similar fashion in Dhaka but people in the neighbourhood nabbed two suspected killers from the scene and handed them over to police.
All three killed were involved with the Ganajagaran Mancha.
In May, terror group al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) had claimed responsibility for the killing of secular bloggers in Bangladesh whom it described as 'blasphemers'.
Radical group Ansar Bangla Team had also claimed responsibility for the deaths.
Two years ago, Mancha activist Ahmed Rajib Haider, another blogger, was hacked to death near his Mirpur home in Dhaka.
Police earlier said they suspected banned Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) having links to al Qaeda was involved in the murders of the secular bloggers in the recent months.
Several suspected operatives of the ABT were arrested after the group claimed responsibility for the murder of three bloggers.