Two suspects were arrested Thursday in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka in connection with the killing of secular blogger Niloy Neel last week. The 40-year-old was hacked to death at his home by suspected Muslim militants, marking the fourth such killing of independent writers in the Asian country.
Saad-al-Nahin and Masud Rana, both suspected members of Ansarullah Bangla Team, a banned Islamist group, which has been previously linked to attacks on bloggers, were taken into custody by investigators, Muntasirul Islam, a spokesman for Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said Friday, according to the Associated Press. Police have not revealed other details about the arrests and it is unclear whether the two men were directly linked to the attack.
Ansar-al-Islam, an Islamist group, believed to be affiliated with al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent by intelligence officials, reportedly claimed responsibility of the killing in an email to media organizations hours after Neel's death, calling the blogger an enemy of "Allah." However, the authenticity of the email could not be independently confirmed.
Neel, an organizer of the Science and Rationalist Association of Bangladesh, who had written critical pieces about religion, was hacked to death on Aug. 7 by at least four men who entered his apartment building posing as tenants. Friends of Neel reportedly said that he had previously received several threats, following which he sought police protection.
"Niloy was an activist of the pro-liberation platform. He was killed because there is no justice in the country," Imran Sarker, the head of a network of activists and bloggers, reportedly said last week. Neel’s wife, Asha Moni, has reportedly filed a murder case against four unnamed people.
Independent writers have been targeted by groups seeking to convert the Muslim-majority country -- governed by secular laws based on British common law -- into a Sharia-based state.
In May, Ananta Bijoy Das, a secular blogger, was hacked to death by masked men “with machetes” in the city of Sylhet, about 147 miles northeast of Dhaka. Das wrote blogs for “Mukto-Mona” (Free-mind), a website founded by Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American blogger, who was also hacked to death in Dhaka in February. Washiqur Rahman, another blogger, who wrote "against religious fundamentalism,” was hacked to death just few yards from his home in Dhaka's Begunbari area in March.
Most secular bloggers, who fear they would be targeted, have either gone into hiding or fled abroad, according to reports.