In what appeared to be synchronised attacks on publishers of slain secularist writer-blogger Avijit Roy, unknown assailants hacked to death Faisal Arefin Dipan of Jagriti Prokashani and critically injured Shuddhoswar's Ahmedur Rashid Tutul yesterday.
The body of 43-year-old Dipan was recovered from his second-floor office at Aziz Market in the capital.
Tutul and two bloggers Ranadipam Basu and Tareque Rahim came under machete attacks at the Lalmatia office of Shuddhoswar. Tareque was also shot in the chest.
The three were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The condition of Tutul, 43, and Tareque, 32 were critical while Ranadipam, 52, was out of danger, Khaza Abdul Gafur, assistant director of DMCH told The Daily Star last night.
Police suspect the two attacks took place in between 2:30pm to 3:30pm.
Later around 9:30, a group identifying itself as “Ansar Al Islam (AQIS Bangladesh,” claimed responsibility for the twin incidents through an email sent to different media outlets.
“These secular and atheist publishers waged war against religion of Islam in every possible ways,” it said, threatening to annihilate anyone who would dare stand against Islam.
The sender identified himself as Mufti Abdullah Ashraf, spokesperson for “Ansar Al Islam (al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent, Bangladesh Chapter)”.
In August, a group using the same name claimed responsibility for the murder of blogger Niloy Chowdhury Neel, one of the four secularist bloggers hacked to death by suspected militants.
Of the other three, Avijit Roy was murdered in February, Oyasiqur Rahman in March and Ananta Bijoy Das in May.
Asked about yesterday's email, Muntasirul Islam, deputy commissioner (Media) of DMP, told The Daily Star around 10:00pm that he learnt about it from TV scrolls but didn't get anything officially.
The attacks on the two publishers were carried out in a similar style, according to police, witnesses and the family of one of the victims.
After the attacks, the doors of both the houses were found locked -- Jagriti office from inside and Shuddhoswar from outside.
Dipan's body was recovered around 6:00pm by other shop owners after the door was opened with a key collected from an employee of the publishing house. Around 7:20pm, as police took his body to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, doctors declared him dead.
Police rescued Tutul and the two bloggers after breaking open the door and took them to DMCH.
Both Jagriti and Shuddhoswar published books written by Avijit Roy and both Dipan and Tutul had received threats on several occasions after Avijit's killing, said their friends and colleagues.
Tutul towards the end of February filed a general diary with Mohammadpur Police Station, expressing security concerns, according to police sources.
“My son had no enemy. He caused nobody any harm. The only reason behind the killing is he [Dipan] had published Avijit's books,” Prof Abul Quasem Fazlul Huq, father of Dipan, told reporters.
“I don't want any trial. I want good sense to prevail. Both sides -- the one doing politics using secularism and the other doing politics state religion -- are pushing the country towards destruction.”
Dipan left behind his wife Dr Razia, one son Ridad and a daughter Ridma. Ridad, a class-VIII student, is scheduled to take JSC examination today.
AS IT HAPPENED
Sheikh Maruf Hassan, additional commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) told reporters that both the attacks were carried out possibly by two separate groups.
"We are not in a position to say whether the two groups follow same ideology. The wounds of the victims of the both incident are seemed alike," he said.
Abul Quasem Fazlul Huq, a professor of Bangla department at Dhaka University, said his son left the house of his sister on Fuller Road around 1:30pm and went to the office, located on the second floor of the shopping centre, a hub for alternative writers and publishers.
He called Dipan at 3:30pm over the phone several times, but none answered. Worried, Fazlul Huq went to his office and found the glass door was locked from inside.
He left the place thinking that Dipan might be busy with something important and had kept the door locked to avoid disturbance, something he often did in the past.
The father then went to Dipan's house at the teachers' quarters of Sufia Kamal Hall on Dhaka University campus. Dipan's wife Razia Rahman, senior medical officer at the Dhaka University Medical Centre, then broke the news of the Lalmatia incident to him.
When Fazlul Huq told her of his visit to Dipan's office, they rushed to Aziz Super Market.
By the time they reached there around 6:00pm, some shop owners had already gathered in front of the office room and were opening the door, said Nazmul Ahsan, president of the shop owners' association of the market.
When Fazlul Huq entered the office, he found his son lying on the floor face down, in a massive pool of blood, in front of the chair he used to sit on and work.
Tutul, owner of Shuddhoswar publishing house, was talking to secular writer Ranadipam Basu and Tareq Rahim, a secular blogger and software engineer, inside his office on the third-floor of the five-storey building.
Besides, Russell, a staff of the publication house, and Wasiqul Haque, an employee of online newspaper bdnews24.com were at the reception.
Hearing a knock on the entrance of the office around 3:00pm, Rasel opened the door and saw a boy, aged around 17-18, standing outside, said Deputy Commissioner Biplob Kumar Sarker of Dhaka Metropolitan Police at the spot after the incident.
The boy said he had come from Sylhet and wanted to talk about buying books. He was carrying a diary. As he entered the room, another boy of the same age followed him inside, police said.
Suddenly, one of two drew out a gun and took Russell and Wasiqul to another room at gunpoint and locked it from outside.
Then the attackers entered Tutul's room and started hacking the three with machetes. Gun shots were also fired and Tareque was hit with a bullet. Within a few minutes, they left the place leaving the victims severely injured.
Ranadipam, however, told The Daily Star at Dhaka Medical College Hospital that there were three attackers.
In a desperate attempt to seek help, injured blogger Ranadipam posted a status on his Facebook page minutes after the attackers left. “They hacked us -- Tutul, Tareq and me,” it read.
About the Lalmatia incident, DC Biplob Sarker said, "Somebody from the neighbourhood called me around 3:00pm and said something happened and asked me to send police. The police reached there within 5-7 minutes of the call."
Reaching there, police found the apartment door was locked form outside. "I told them [over the phone] to break into the flat immediately. They found three critically injured men -- one lying on the floor and two others sitting on two chairs."
Since Rasel and Wasiqul were inside another room, they didn't know what was going on. "They heard footsteps. They heard screams. The whole thing happened within a few minutes," Biplob said.
Police found an unused bullet and a cartridge from there.
Syed Golam Morshed, who lives in another apartment on the same floor, said three or four families live in the building while the rest were rented out for offices and coaching centres. The building has no security guard.
While visiting the spot, this correspondent found blood splattered on the floor. There were blood stains on the stairs as well.
No cases were filed as of 3:00am today.