A publisher of Bangla-deshi-born US citizen slain writer and blogger Avijit Roy's books, was hacked to death by miscreants on the third floor of Aziz Super Market in the city's Shahbagh area hours after the attack on another publisher and two writers in the city's Lalmatia area.
The deceased has been identified as Faisal Arefin Dipan, 45, owner of Jagriti publication house, and son of former professor of Dhaka University's Bangla department Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq.
In another incident, unidentified assailants attacked a publisher in whose publishing house 'Shuddhaswar' in Dhaka's Lalmatia area on Saturday afternoon. The victims were identified as Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, 43, owner of Shuddhwashawr and bloggers Sudeep Kumar Roy Barman alias Ranadeep Basu, 50, and Tareque Rahim, 30, were undergoing treatments at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
The self-styled 'Bangladeshi branch' of militant group al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent (AQIS) has claimed credit for the killing of a publisher and attacking another in Dhaka.
A Twitter account, purportedly handled by the militant group Ansar Al Islam, made the claim hours after the attacks on Saturday night.
"We, al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent, published books that "violated the honour of Prophet Muhammad". It said the attacks were "vengeance in honour of the messenger of Allah and the religion of Islam". Police's Deputy Commissioner Muntasirul Islam said that they were investigating the claim. "Our teams are working to ascertain credibility of the claim," he said. "We are investigating who tweeted and from where."
In both the attacks - which are similar in nature, the perpetrators locked the victims inside their offices before leaving the scene. Both the publishers published books of blogger and US citizen Avijit Roy who was killed in an attack on February 26 near the Teachers-Students Centre of Dhaka University. Alauddin, manager of the Jagriti Prokashoni who was working in the other office on the first floor of the same building, told the Daily Observer "He (Dipan) was working in our office on the second floor of this building." As Alauddin failed to reach Dipan over his mobile phone around 3:30pm, he went up to the second floor. Finding the door locked, he knocked on the door but no-one responded.
"As we didn't get any response despite several attempts, we broke open the door and found him lying on the floor, in a pool of blood," he said. He was found severely injured at his office room at Aziz Super market, witnesses said.
On information, police rushed to Aziz Market and took seriously injured Dipan to DMCH said DMP spokesperson Islam. "Doctors declared him dead there said Residential Surgeon of DMCH Riaz Morshed. Prof Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque, father of Dipan told journalists on Saturday after the murder that those who have targeted those promoting free speech might be behind the attack.
Police said a group of miscreants stormed into the office of Tutul's publishing house, 'Shuddhoswar Prokashoni,' on the third floor of a building at Lalmatia around 2:45pm and stabbed him indiscriminately. A youth, who claimed to be a witness to the incident, sought anonymity to tell the daily Observer that a group of men stormed into the office and held a gun on his head to begin the assault.
Residents of the building said they had heard sounds of firing. Police rushed to spot and took the three injured to the hospital. Besides Tutul, the two others injured in the attack were blogger Tarik Rahim and writer Ranadipam Basu. He said they found bullet wound marks on Tarik's abdomen. Later, they were taken to DMCH around 3:15pm. "The assailants came in disguise of customers," he said. "Now the condition of Tarik and Tutul are serious. A witness said he was in the room with Tutul when the attackers came around 2:30pm. They locked the room before leaving. "There were three attackers. They told us, 'we've come to kill Tutul,' the witness said. The assailants held several men hostage at gunpoint and locked them in another room. The witness described one of the attackers as being 'healthy' while another had a light beard and the third one was apparently in his teens.
One of them knocked at the door saying he had come to buy books. After he was let in, he said one of his 'brothers' was waiting outside. He went out and brought in two others.
The man who had entered first took out machetes from his bag. "We heard gun shots being fired when the assailants left," the witness said.
Police's Tejgaon zone Deputy Commissioner Biplob Kumar Sarkar said they were yet to identify the attackers. "We're sure that there were three of them," he told reporters, adding that bullet and empty cartridge had been found on the site. Publisher Tutul had filed a general diary with Mohammadpur police after receiving death threats on Facebook. Sarkar said he did not remember if Tutul had filed a GD. "But we've provided protection to those who had asked for it," he said.
Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Asaduzzaman Mia, Additional Commissioner Sheikh Maruf Hassan visited the injured at the hospital. Asaduzzaman Mia later told journalists police are investigating the incident.
The publisher Tutul, who was a close friend of Roy, had filed a complaint with police after being threatened with death on Facebook after Avijit Roy was hacked to death in February this year.
Investigators said that Islamist radicals were behind the attack on Roy, which also left his wife blogger Rafida Ahmed Bonya severely injured. Saturday's attack left two others along with Tutul injured.
Jamal Mir, Officer-in-Charge of Mohammadpur Police Station told the Daily Observer on Saturday, "We're still not sure whether there's any link of militants in the attack. We've launched a manhunt to find out the culprits." Shuddhashar Prokashani published slain writer-blogger Avijit Roy's book Shunya Theke Mahabishwa and the publisher reportedly received death threat after the brutal murder of Avijit. Tutul has written two poetry books- Durbalataguchchha, Mrita Ghorhar Hresha. Witnesses told that a gang of five to six miscreants entered inside the office of Tutul around 2:30pm and swooped on the three writers with firearms and sharp weapons. Meanwhile, police say three men attacked Suddhaswar's office in Dhaka's Lalmatia, injuring its publisher and two others. Although investigation revealed militants' involvement in Roy's murder, police are reluctant to draw conclusion about the affiliation of the Saturday's attackers.
This is the fourth incident of grisly attacks this month after the murder of Japanese national Kunio Hoshi in Rangpur, murder attempt of a pastor in Pabna and bomb attack on Shia community during Ashura that left one dead.
The attack on free thinkers began with that of the killing of Rajib Haider in February 2013, followed by bloggers Avijit Roy, Oyasiqur Rahman and Ananta Bijoy Das this year.