Three assailants cornered Washiqur Rahman, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi blogger, outside his Dhaka home on Monday and hacked him to death with meat cleavers. Police said the attackers rained their blows on Rahman's head, "distorting" his face.
The brutal assault instantly brought comparisons to an incident last month in which machete-wielding assailants killed the prominent Bangladeshi American blogger Avijit Roy and wounded his wife on the streets of the country's capital.
Police arrested two men in Rahman's killing; a third suspected accomplice escaped. Bangladeshi media reports identify the arrested as two 22-year-old students at madrassas, or seminaries. A police statement detailed the supposed confession of the suspects, who reportedly admitted to killing Rahman "for his writings against Islam."
"It appeared Rahman used to write using a pen name Kutshit Hasher Chhana," meaning Ugly Duckling, Imran Sarker, head of the Blogger and Online Activists Network in Bangladesh, said in an interview with Agence France-Presse. "He was a progressive free thinker and was against religious fundamentalism."
A blogpost by the International Humanist and Ethical Union translated a wistful lament posted by Rahman on the occasion of Bangladesh's independence day:
Today is Bangladesh’s liberation day
The Mullah has freedom, extremists have freedom, Muslims have freedom, the corrupt have freedom, political leaders have freedom, adulates of the political leaders have freedom, rapists are free, the armed forces are free, so-called civil society is free, intellectuals who support Islamists, they also have freedom, religious leaders have freedom, the garment factory owners have freedom, the ferry owners have freedom.
Not free: the farmers and labours
Not free: indigenous people and minorities
Not free: Freethinkers
Not free: All the people who just want to be human…
The gruesome murder of a second progressive blogger within a month places further scrutiny on Bangladesh, where an avowedly secularist government is firmly in power. As WorldViews discussed last month, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has cracked down heavily on the country's leading Islamist party, while critics say her rule has led to an alarmingly authoritarian climate, in which even mainstream journalists feel intimidated by the government.
In this context, Bangladesh's festering divisions seem more dangerous.
Rafida Ahmed, the injured wife of the slain blogger Roy, recently accused elements of the local police of standing by idly while her husband was butchered.
"While Avijit and I were being ruthlessly attacked, the local police stood close by and did not act," Ahmed told Reuters in mid-March. She demanded an end to "a legal culture of impunity, where writers can be killed without the killers being brought to trial."
A banner on Rahman's Facebook page reads "#IamAvijit."
This post has been updated.