Bangladesh: Key suspect in blogger Avijit Roy’s murder ‘killed in gunfight’

Story highlights

Roy was hacked to death in February last year after attending a book festival

Police have launched raids, arresting 12,000 people, including some suspected terrorists

CNN  — 

One of the key suspects in the hacking murder of Bangladesh-born American blogger and writer Avijit Roy has been killed in a gunfight, Bangladesh police said.

“Shariful is dead in a gunfight with police on early Sunday in Dhaka,” said Abdul Baten, joint commissioner of the detective branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, at a press briefing Sunday.

At the police briefing Sunday, Baten said: “They were three on a motorbike… as police chased the motorbike they opened fire on police and Shariful was dead in police’s counter attack, but two others managed to escape.”

Shariful, 25, who also went by the names Sharif, Sakib or Saleh, was on the motorbike with two associates and failed to stop at a police signal, arousing suspicion. Police gave chase and were fired upon, before responding, killing Shariful. The two others escaped.

Roy was hacked to death and his wife was seriously wounded as they returned from an annual book fair on Dhaka University campus in February last year.

His was one of the first in a series of brutal attacks against secularists, religious minorities and gay activists in the officially secular but Muslim-majority nation.

Police have said that most of the suspected militants were members of Jama’atul Mujahedin Bangladesh, a banned Islamist group.

Authorities launched a massive crackdown last week, arresting 11,000 people in raids across the country, including nearly 145 suspected militants. The remainder have been accused of everything from theft and drug dealing to violence.

Shariful was one of six suspects for each of whom police announced a bounty of $6,400 (half a million taka) after Roy’s murder.

Suspect was wanted

He was considered to be a top organizer of banned Islamist outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team, police said.

Officials suspect Shariful had links to the murders of at least two other bloggers, apart from his direct involvement in Roy’s murder.

Teenage suspect killed in custody

Shariful was killed a day after a teenage Islamist suspect, Golam Faizullah Fahim, was killed while in police custody for interrogation.

Police claimed Fahim, a college student, was involved in an unsuccessful machete attack on a Hindu college teacher, Ripon Chakravarty, on June 15. Other attackers fled but Fahim was caught by citizens and later handed over to local police.

After his detention he was brought before a district magistrate and was remanded in police custody for 10 days, but died on the first day when he was brought to the scene of the crime for a reconstruction.

Madaripur superintendent of police Sarwar Hossain told journalists that a group of assailants, all of a sudden, opened fire on the police vehicle, prompting the police to retaliate. Fahim was killed during the gunfight, he said.

Islamic scholars issue anti-terrorism fatwa

The wave of killings prompted reaction from leading Islamic scholars in Bangladesh.

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On Saturday, 100,000 Islamic scholars launched a fatwa or a religious edict, saying that militancy and terrorism in the name of Islam is un-Islamic.

Maulana Farid Uddin Masoud, chairman of Bangladesh Jamiyatul Ulama, a platform of Islamic scholars, pronounced the fatwa at a press conference in Dhaka Saturday. He told CNN that the imams would submit the fatwa to the president and prime minister.

“These killings are not a just part of Jihad, but mere acts of terrorism, and crimes against humanity,” Maulana Masoud told CNN.

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While the decree is not legally binding, it is hoped that it will raise awareness of what the scholars say misguided and un-Islamic actions.