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Islamic Militant Group Circulates Hit List of International Bloggers and Activists

The list released by Bangladeshi hardline organization Ansarullah Bangla Team follows a series of hacking deaths of bloggers.
Bangladeshi mourners carry the coffin containing the body of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider for funeral in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo by Pavel Rahman/AP

A banned hardline Islamist militant group in Bangladesh has published a list of bloggers, activists, and writers around the world that it says it plans to execute.

The Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a violent organization that has previously targeted religious critics in Bangladesh, compiled the hit list which includes both Bangladeshi citizens living abroad and some dual or Western citizens. Among them are nine bloggers in the UK, seven in Germany, two in the US, and one each in Sweden and Canada, according to the Guardian.


Militants have been targeting secular writers in Bangladesh in recent years, while the government has cracked down on Islamist groups seeking to impose Sharia law on the South Asian nation of 160 million.

So far this year, four bloggers have been hacked to death in the Muslim-majority nation.

Related: Threats, Attacks, and Murders Keep Bloggers in Bangladesh on Edge

In February, machete-wielding assailants killed Avijit Roy, 43, a US citizen of Bangladeshi origin and a critic of religious militancy. They seriously injured his wife and fellow blogger, Rafida Bonya Ahmed.

Ananta Bijoy Das, 33, was hacked to death as he headed to work at a bank in the northeastern district of Sylhet in May.

Police said at least 10 members of Ansarullah Bangla Team had been arrested since the killing of blogger Niloy Chatterjee on Aug. 7. Earlier this month, Bangladeshi authorities arrested three more ABT members, including its leader, Abul Bashar, in the capital Dhaka for their alleged involvement in killings of online critics of religious militancy.

Despite the arrests, bloggers are still afraid. One, Shubhajit Bhowmik, who wrote about politics and religion, told VICE News that he had received email and social media threats for a number of years before giving up writing for the sake of personal safety.

At the end of the day, Bhowmik said "the fear of life is more important than the so-called power of the pen."


Related: Al Qaeda Franchise in Bangladesh Claims Responsibility for Blogger's Murder

Others continue to write despite the looming danger.

"I have stopped going anywhere except to my office where I go when accompanied by others and return with them," wrote one, who goes by the pen name Sannyasi. "I am always wary of people's movement in public places."

Human rights activists and writers have condemned the attacks and continue to call on the Bangladeshi government to protect bloggers and ensure right to free expression.

Last month, Human Rights Watch pressed the government, "to recall that its duty is to uphold the constitution and protect people's lives, as well as their religious freedom."

Reuters contributed to this report.