US announces $5m reward for information on Bangladesh militants behind Avijit murder


The United States government has announced a reward of up to $5 million for information on two absconding convicts in the 2015 murder of writer-blogger Avijit Roy
The convicts are sacked army major Syed Ziaul Haque aka Major Zia and Akram Hossain alias Abir.

The Department of State announced the reward under its Rewards for Justice programme on Monday.

The Islamist militants hacked to death Avijit, the US-based Bangladeshi science writer and founder of the Muktomona blog, on Feb 26, 2015 just after he had left the Amar Ekushey Book Fair in Dhaka. His wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya was also wounded in the attack.

“If you have info on those responsible for this heinous attack, text us at the number below,” the Rewards for Justice programme twitted, asking people to send information to +1-202-702-7843.

“Those responsible for the attack are believed to be in Bangladesh,” it said in a statement.
Dhaka’s Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal on Feb 16 this year sentenced Syed Ziaul, Akram and three other militants to death for the murder of Avijit. The three others — Md Mozzammel Hussain alias Saimon alias Shahriar, Md Abu Siddiq Sohel alias Sakib alias Sajid alias Shahab, Md Arafat Rahman — are behind bars.

Another defendant, Safiur Rahman Farabi, was jailed for life.

On Feb 10, the court sentenced to death eight militants, including Ziaul, Saimon, Siddiq and Akram in a case over the murder of Avijit’s publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan, who was hacked to death at his office in a similar attack months after the killing of Avijit.

Investigators said all of the suspects in the murder of Avijit, aside from Farabi, were members of the Ansarullah Bangla Team, said to be an affiliate of al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent, or AQIS.

On Jul 1, 2016, the US Department of State designated AQIS as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Previously, on Jun 30, 2016, the Department of State designated AQIS as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group.
According to the police, Ziaul masterminded the attack while Farabi instigated the killing through a Facebook post saying it was a Farz or must for a Muslim to kill Avijit.

The investigators found that the leader of the group that carried out the murder was Mukul Rana aka Shariful, who was killed in an alleged shootout with police in Khilgaon on Jun 19, 2016.

The son of eminent physicist Prof Ajay Roy, Avijit had come to Bangladesh to take part in the book fair despite threats from militants.

Prof Roy filed a case over his son’s murder at Shahbagh Police Station soon after the incident. The family expressed its disappointment with the slow progress of the investigation. After Prof Roy’s death in December 2019, his wife died last year.

“As an author, blogger, and activist, (Avijit) Roy challenged fundamentalism in Bangladesh by advocating for freedom of expression. He coordinated international protests to raise awareness of the plight of imprisoned atheist bloggers in Bangladesh and was a well-known critic of social repression. He was targeted and killed for his outspoken beliefs and activism,” the Rewards for Justice programme said in the statement.

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