Dhaka: Angry protesters took to the streets in Bangladesh on Sunday blaming the government's inaction for the murders of secular writers and publishers in the country, even as the Home Minister termed the attacks claimed by al Qaeda in the Indian sub-continent as "isolated incidents".
The protests came a day after secular publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan, 43, was killed in his third-floor office in central Dhaka.
Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, a publisher who worked with slain atheist writer and blogger Avijit Roy and bloggers Ranadipam Basu, 50, and Tareque Rahim, 30, were hacked by unidentified assailants in a separate incident.
A group identifying itself as Ansar al-Islam -- Bangladesh chapter of al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) -- claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Six writers and bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh in the past two and half years, five of them since January this year with families and friends of the deceased alleging failure on the part of police in bringing perpetrators to justice.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal said the attacks on publishers and bloggers were "isolated incidents".
Speaking to reporters, he claimed the country's law and order situation was all right.
Asked why such incidents were taking place repeatedly, Kamal said, "Such isolated incidents occur in other countries as well."
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Joint Commissioner Monirul Islam said that the police is investigating the claims made by Ansar al-Islam, a militant group suspected to be under the banned Ansarullah Bangla Team umbrella.
"This is not a typical crime as it is a preplanned targeted killing. So it is difficult to capture the killers," said Monirul.
When asked if such targeted attacks can be prevented, he said, "Visible policing is not enough to prevent such incidents. We need a special counter terrorism unit which we don't have."
In primary investigation, he said, it is evident that the attackers are not trained killers.
"We cannot say for sure if this attack on the publishers is related to the previous attacks on bloggers without further investigation," he said.
Another leading publisher Farid Ahmed today alleged unidentified assailants sent him an SMS issuing a death threat for publishing books authored by "atheists".
Yesterday's attacks sparked widespread anger with different rights groups and social organisations staging street marches in the capital and elsewhere today, slamming police failures to ensure security and demanding immediate government action to bring the perpetrators of the crimes to justice.
Teachers, writers, students and other protesters converged on Dhaka University today to vent their anger on attacks. Ganojagoron Manch, a major forum of secular bloggers, also called for countrywide protests.
"I don't want any trial, I want good sense to prevail (among all)," said Dipan's father Abul Kashem Fazlul Huq, a retired university professor and a well known left-leaning writer.
"Both sides ?- the one that's doing politics using secularism and the other that's doing politics using state religion (Islam) -- are pushing the country towards destruction. Let good sense prevail on both sides," he said.
Online activists and bloggers blamed government's "apathy" and "culture of impunity" for the murder of secular writers and publishers.
Several rights activists alleged that the key people behind such murders and attacks could not be traced due to attempts to gain political mileage out of these incidents.
Before Dipan's murder, four secularist bloggers were killed by Islamist militants in Bangladesh this year.
Bangladesh-born US writer Roy was hacked to death by unidentified assailants on February 26. Blogger Washiqur Rahman was murdered in central Dhaka on March 30. Writer and blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was killed in a similar attack in northeastern city of Sylhet on May 12.
On August 7, attackers entered the apartment of blogger Niladri Niloy Chattapadhay and hacked him to death.
Ansar Al Islam had claimed responsibility for the killings on social media.