Photo credit: AP
By Syed Zain Al-Mahmood
An al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the killing of a secular activist in the capital Dhaka, fueling concerns international militant networks are gaining a foothold in the Muslim-majority South Asian country.
Nazimuddin Samad, a Bangladeshi law student who expressed secular views online, was attacked by unidentified assailants not far from his campus in southern Dhaka on Wednesday night and was left bleeding on the street, police said. Mr. Samad died after he was taken to a local hospital, according to police and doctors.
Al Qaeda In the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, claimed responsibility for the killing of Mr. Samad through a statement posted online Friday night, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a website that monitors Jihadist messages.
The statement said operatives of Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh—a banned al Qaeda-linked group—had carried out the attack on Mr. Samad in retaliation for “blasphemy against our beloved Prophet.”
“We don’t attack people for being atheist in their personal lives,” the statement said. “We only target those who deride Islam and the Prophet.”
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Syed Nurul Islam said officers were investigating “all possible motives” for Mr. Samad’s killing.
Bangladesh has experienced a wave of religiously motivated violence in recent months, including attacks against foreigners, ethnic minorities and secular bloggers and activists, most of which were claimed by Islamist militant groups linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda.
Last year, Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh, also known as Ansar Bangla and Ansarullah Bangla Team, claimed responsibility for the killing of at least four secular bloggers and a publisher in the country. An Italian aid worker and a Japanese farmer were also killed in attacks claimed by Islamic State.
Ansar Bangla started its operations in Bangladesh about 2012 as the Bangladesh arm of al Qaeda during a period of confrontation between secularists and Islamists in the country, although many members have switched allegiance to Islamic State since then, according to documents and video clips seen by The Wall Street Journal. The Bangladesh government banned Ansar Bangla last year under antiterrorism legislation.
Some security analysts believe extremist groups could be benefiting from political chaos in Bangladesh, caused by bitter confrontation between the ruling Awami League party and opposition political groups led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
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