Secular Bangladesh publisher defiant after machete attack

The secular Bangladeshi publisher who survived a horrific weekend attack at the hands of suspected Islamist extremists has vowed to continue his work, and says the country needs to do more to promote free speech.

AFP| Updated: Nov 05, 2015, 00:37 AM IST

Dhaka: The secular Bangladeshi publisher who survived a horrific weekend attack at the hands of suspected Islamist extremists has vowed to continue his work, and says the country needs to do more to promote free speech.

Ahmedur Rashid Tutul was chatting with two writers in the office of his publishing firm in Dhaka on Saturday, when a group of young men wielding machetes and meat cleavers stormed the building.

"Before we could realise what was happening they started hacking us indiscriminately," the 43-year-old said from his heavily guarded hospital bed.

His attackers, one of whom had visited the firm earlier posing as a book buyer, left the three victims lying in a pool of blood as they left, padlocking the door from the outside. The victims eventually managed to call the police.

Looking tired and with a deep gash on his face, Tutul said the brutal violence had only left him "more determined" to publish controversial books in the face of rising extremism.

"Once I recover, I will continue my work," he said, visibly struggling with the pain, as more than a dozen armed policemen stood guard outside his room in the capital.

Tutul, whose firm Shuddhaswar specialises in publishing young, liberal authors, is well aware of the intensifying dangers of his profession.

On the same day as the savage attack, his friend Faisal Arefin Dipan, also a secular publisher, was murdered at his office in the Bangladeshi capital.

It follows a wave of violence against secular and atheist writers at the hands of Islamist militants this year that have left at least four bloggers dead.

Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks and several previous killings, calling the victims "atheists and blasphemers".

Tensions were already running high in the mainly Muslim, officially secular nation following the murders of an Italian aid worker and a Japanese farmer last month -- attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.

Police have rejected these claims of responsibility, saying they suspect a banned local Islamist group was likely responsible.