US Offers $5MN for Info on Secular Blogger’s Killing in Bangladesh

BenarNews Staff
Washington
2021-12-20
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US Offers $5MN for Info on Secular Blogger’s Killing in Bangladesh U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) members inspect the spot where secular blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death, in Dhaka, March 1, 2015.
[AFP]

Nearly seven years after Muslim extremists killed Bangladeshi secular blogger Avijit Roy and injured his wife outside a Dhaka book fair, the United States announced a reward of up to $5 million Monday for information leading to the arrest or conviction of anyone involved in the attack.

It was not immediately clear why the U.S. government announced the potential reward only now. But in Washington, a State Department official said the investigation into the case remained open and the United States was seeking information that could help law enforcement catch perpetrators of the “heinous terrorist attack” on Roy and his wife, both American citizens.

“The U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, through its Rewards for Justice (RFJ) office, is offering a reward for information on the terrorist attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh that left U.S. citizen Avijit Roy dead and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, seriously injured,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The Secretary of State has authorized a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of anyone involved in the murder of Roy and the attack on Ahmed.”

The statement also said anyone with information should text RFJ via Signal, Telegram, or Whatsapp at +1 (202) 702-7843. Any tips provided would remain confidential, they added.

Roy’s killing was among a spate of cold-blooded murders of secular writers and intellectuals that gripped Bangladesh from 2013 to 2016.

Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist group based in Bangladesh, claimed responsibility for the attack.

This past February, a Bangladesh court sentenced to death five of six Islamic militants who were found guilty of the February 2015 attack on Roy and his spouse. However, two of the convicts were not in the courtroom as police have yet to find and arrest them.

“This reward is being offered, and offered now, because this investigation remains open, and we are seeking information that will assist law enforcement agencies in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this heinous terrorist attack,” a State Department spokesperson said.

“[W]e look forward to receiving the leads that we expect this reward offer to generate.”

In Dhaka, officials at Bangladesh’s national police headquarters did not immediately respond to BenarNews requests for comment on Monday.

Roy, a dual Bangladeshi-U.S. citizen, lived in the United States with his wife. He came to Bangladesh to attend Dhaka’s annual Ekushey Book Fair in February 2015, despite repeated online death threats against him.

On the evening of Feb. 26, 2015 machete-wielding men attacked Roy and his wife as the couple was leaving the campus of Dhaka University – the venue for the literary festival.

The assailants hacked Roy to death. Ahmad survived the attack but was seriously injured.

Of the two who are on the run, Akram Hossain took part in hacking Roy to death, while notorious former major Syed Ziaul Haque planned the murder, prosecutors had said. 

Haque is allegedly the chief of the militant outfit Ansar-al-Islam, which is also known as Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT). In 2019, investigators told BenarNews that they were unsure whether the notorious “Major Zia” – who was blamed for multiple terror attacks in the country – was still alive.

The State Department said that soon after ABT claimed responsibility, Asim Umar, the now-deceased leader of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, posted a widely circulated video claiming that AQIS followers were responsible for the attack on Roy and Ahmed.

Bangladesh banned ABT in May 2015. The next year, the U.S. State Department designated AQIS a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Since another secular activist and blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was killed by Muslim zealots in February 2013, several other writers, bloggers, publishers, activists and intellectuals were slain in machete-attacks, mostly in 2015 and 2016.

The State Department noted that Roy “challenged fundamentalism in Bangladesh” by advocating for freedom of expression.

Roy “coordinated international protests to raise awareness of the plight of imprisoned atheist bloggers in Bangladesh and was a well-known critic of social repression,” it said.

“He was targeted and killed for his outspoken beliefs and activism.”

The Rewards for Justice Program, administered by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, was set up in 1984.

It has paid in excess of $200 million to more than 100 people who provided actionable information that “helped prevent terrorist attacks, bring terrorists to justice, and resolve threats to U.S. national security,” the statement said.

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