Nilloy Neel, an openly secular and atheist blogger in Bangladesh, was hacked to death at his home in the capital city of Dhaka today (Aug. 7), according to authorities.
Police say that a gang armed with machetes showed up to Neel’s home in the Goran area of Dhaka claiming to be looking to rent an apartment. Neel’s wife, police report, was subsequently confined to a room in their apartment while two attackers took him into a room and slaughtered him. Neel—of Hindu descent—is at least the fourth secularist blogger in Bangladesh to be killed in attacks on free expression perpetrated by suspected Islamist militants.
“He was the voice against fundamentalism and extremism and was even a voice for minority rights—especially women’s rights and the rights of indigenous people,” Imran H. Sarkar, head of the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, told the BBC of Neel.
Neel and the three other dead bloggers—Ananta Bijoy Das, Avijit Roy, and Washiqur Rahman—were on a hit list of 84 “atheist bloggers” circulated by Islamist groups in 2013. The group that originally made the list claims it was intended for the government to prosecute the bloggers for blasphemy and claim that the group has no knowledge of this year’s killings, the BBC reports.
In fact, not all of these bloggers were or are atheist, but all of them are part of a secular movement in Bangladesh.
Neel had faced death threats for several months, writing in a Facebook post in May that he had been followed by two men when coming home from a protest demanding justice for the death of Das. When he expressed concern at the police station, he writes in his post, the police told him to leave the country “as soon as possible,” the Dhaka Tribune reports.
He attempted to file a general report, yet all of the police stations to which he went refused to register it—claiming that it wasn’t in their jurisdiction., reports the Dhaka Tribune. Although Bangladesh is officially a secular country, critics say that the government is indifferent to these kinds of attacks. After his Facebook post in May, Neel continued to write and speak out against injustice until his death.
Thus far, two people have been arrested but no one has been charged for this year’s killings, the BBC reports.