IS Militants in B’desh publishes global hit-list of bloggers, activists and writers
An Islamic militant
group in Bangladesh has issued a hit-list of secular bloggers, writers and
activists around the world, saying they will be killed if its demands are not
met. The list will raise fears that Islamic militant violence within the
unstable south Asian country could take on an international dimension.
The targets in the list
include nine bloggers based in the UK, seven in Germany, two in the US, one in
Canada and one in Sweden. Some are Bangladeshi citizens living overseas. Others
are dual nationals or citizens of the western nations.
The list was issued in
a statement on the internet by the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a group that
has been blamed for a series of murders of bloggers and activists in Bangladesh
over the last 18 months. All those killed have been prominent critics of
extremist religious doctrines, especially in Islam.
The acting leader of
the ABT and two close associates were arrested earlier this month in Dhaka, the
capital of Bangladesh, for their involvement in the murder of a secular blogger
earlier this year. Individuals on the new list have told the Guardian they
intend to keep writing and blogging.
“Our weapon is pen, and
we can use it without hurting anybody. We just want to make people conscious about
their rights. So that nobody can use them to fulfill bad intentions,” said
Ananya Azad, a Bangladeshi blogger who has been forced into exile in Europe and
is on the list.
There has been no
previous indication that the ABT was targeting bloggers overseas and the list
will worry security authorities in Europe and the US.
of Bangladeshi origin named on the list have approached police in London and
elsewhere following its publication. They say authorities have advised them to
take precautions to minimise the risk of attack.
It is unclear if the
ABT has the capability to carry out their threats, but its call for action may
prompt individuals to mount “lone wolf” attacks.
Police have charged an
ABT organiser and four supporters with the murder of a 27-year-old blogger,
Washiqur Rahman, in Dhaka in March. Rahman’s death came just weeks after a
Bangladesh-born American atheist blogger was murdered in Dhaka by
The murder in February
of Bangladeshi-born US citizen Avijit Roy, a science writer and blog moderator,
prompted outrage around the world. His US-based widow is among those named on
the new list the group appear to have issued.
Officials believe the
ABT is close to the Ansar ul-Islam organisation, which is part of al-Qaida in south
Asia and launched by the extremist organisation about a year ago.
The statement featured
a logo comprising a black flag carrying the seal of the prophet Muhammad, often
favoured by extremist groups, and the phrase: “We do not forget, we do not
forgive” in English.
Al-Qaida has publicly
praised violent operations by the ABT and has hailed activists charged with the
murder of bloggers as “lions of the international community”.
The new list is
accompanied by an incoherent demand to strip bloggers of their citizenship. It
appears to be addressed to the government of Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh
Hasina, though many of those on the hit-list have dual nationality or are
citizens of Britain, the US or European nations.
“Cancel the Bangladeshi
citizenship of enemies of Islam and education, atheists, apostates, unbelievers,
anti-Islamic ... bloggers, agents of India ... otherwise they will be killed
wherever they can be found in the Almighty’s world,” said the statement.
The origin of the list
is unclear, and some have doubted it is an official statement from the ABT in Bangladesh,
but instead compiled or published from the UK or elsewhere in the west.
More than 150 writers,
including Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Yann Martel and Colm Tóibín, signed
a letter condemning the series of fatal attacks and calling on the government
of Bangladesh “to ensure that the tragic events … are not repeated”.
Authorities in Dhaka
have been previously criticised for requesting local bloggers and activists to
avoid provocative statements on sensitive religious issues.
Human Rights Watch, the
international campaigning group, last month called for the government “to
recall that its duty is to uphold the constitution and protect people’s lives,
as well as their religious freedom”.
“It’s shocking that
Bangladesh authorities not only failed to protect the bloggers despite
complaints to the police about threats against them, but instead are proposing
self-censorship,” said the spokesperson. Repeated efforts to contact senior
Bangladeshi officials for comment this week were unsuccessful.
Those on the list say
they are aware of the dangers of their activism. “I can’t give you assurance
that I can’t be hurt here also. Fundamentalists have threatened that they will
come and kill me,” said blogger Azad.
“I can’t say that I am
fully safe, as the fundamentalists know where I am residing. I can’t say what
will happen in future, but I can give you this assurance that I will write
until the end of my life.”