7 August 2015, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Blogger murdered

For the fifth time since 2013, and for the fourth time this year, Islamist jihadist militants in Bangladesh attacked and killed a secular blogger, reports Fox News. In this case, the victim was 40-year-old Niloy Chottopadhay (blogger name, Niloy Chowdhury.)

Four attackers reportedly gained access to Chottopadhay’s building in Dhaka by pretending to be potential renters. Once inside, says The Sun Daily, they entered the victim’s apartment on the fifth floor, held his wife in one room, and then hacked Chottopadhay to death in another. The assailants shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they rained blows upon him. The Daily Star, a Bangladesh news outlet, says coroners reported that the blows were so fierce they cut well into the victim’s bones.

The al-Qaeda-related group, Ansar-al-Islam, claimed responsibility to the attack via email to the press.

This does not appear to be the Ansar-al-Islam that was active in Iraq and Syria and merged with ISIS in August 2014. A good profile of that organization appears in The Long War Journal.

This Bangladeshi group appears to be “Al Qaeda in Bangladesh,” as demonstrated by the message by the group posted below.

Ansar-al-Islam justified the murder by alleging Chottopadhay’s writings had made him an enemy of God. It is interesting to point out that Chottopadhay also criticized the radical veins of other religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

The direct justification for the murder cited by Ansar-al-Islam was translated by Site Intelligence Group and posted here. Highlights include:

“Indeed, those who abuse Allah and his messenger- Allah has cursed them in the world and the hereafter and prepared for them a humiliating punishment.” Sura Ahzab, 57

“Alhamdulillah! Mujahidin of Ansar-Al-Islam (AQIS, Bangladesh Branch) carried out an operation to slaughter an enemy of Allah (swt) and His Messenger (peace & blessings be upon upon), whose name is Niloy Chowdhury Neel.”

“We, al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the honor of the messenger of Allah (pbuh). And, we declare war against these worst enemies of Allah (swt) and His messenger (pbuh). We will apply all our effort to destroy them along with their allies Insha’Allah.”

“If your ‘Freedom of Speech’ maintains no limits, then widen your chests for ‘Freedom of our Machetes’.”

Chottopadhay had recently received threats over his writings, prompting him to curb some of his online activities. The Sacramento Bee reports that his wife claims that he had reported these threats to the police and had been followed when walking the streets by unknown persons. The police allegedly told him to leave the country. Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, the Home Minister, says such complaints were never filed.

Other Bangladeshi bloggers murdered by Islamist jihadists are as follows:

– Ananta Bijoy Das, 12 May 2015
– Avijit Roy 26 February 2015
– Oyasiqur Rahman Basbu, 30 March 2015
– Rajib Haider, 15 February 2013

Bangladeshi law enforcement has apparently made progress in only one of these high profile killings.

While Islam is Bangladesh’s state religion, the majority of the country is not Islamist jihadist, and there has been an outcry against these murders. Additionally, government forces that fight the Islamist jihadists in Bangladesh are composed of Muslims.

Most of the violence done in Bangladesh by Islamist jihadists has been by Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the largest Islamist party in the country. It opposed Bangladesh breaking away from Pakistan in 1971 and fought on the latter’s side during a bloody civil war that entailed multitudes of gory massacres. Trials over the massacres are still ongoing, and JeI is engaged in a constant struggle with moderate Muslims for the heart and soul of the country.

The appearance of Bangladeshi Ansar-al-Islam could mean that a new violent group has surfaced, or it could be a surrogate, a proxy, of JeI.

If it’s a new group, more such attacks and/or political warfare will confirm if this is true or not.

Regarding tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), Chottopadhay’s assassination indicates Bangladeshi Ansar-al-Islam (and affiliated Islamist jihadist hit teams) has effective skillsets RE: identification and surveillance of the target, and strike and egress.

At the same time, the Chottopadhay hit was purposefully messy and meant to send a message to anyone opposed to the Islamist jihadist version of Islam. This hit team wasn’t too concerned with the classic surreptitious hit and run assassination. They were mainly focused on the kill and the resulting political warfare messaging associated with it.

It’s also important to note that the hit team was not focused on a hard target. It was a vulnerable civilian, and expert assassination TTPs weren’t entirely necessary.

The lack of law enforcement progress in these assassination cases and in protecting the public is troubling. It suggests several possible angles: 1) law enforcement is not capable of carrying out effective investigations, 2) it might not be motivated to do so, and/or, 3) factions of the police might be sympathetic (passively or actively) to the Islamist jihadists.

Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque said of Chottopadhay’s murder, “Do not cross the limit. Do not hurt anyone’s religious belief.” He was admonishing the bloggers.

Regardless of the exact reason for a lack of investigative progress, the actions by the police bode ill for the stability of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s current struggle with Islamist jihadis will continue until the government is able to cohesively thwart it. This means the military and police working together not just in investigation and force application operations, but also in the critical sector of counter political warfare.

Sources and further reading:
“After murders, Bangladesh police blames bloggers, asks them not to ‘cross limit’,” DNA, 10 August 2015.

“Secular blogger killed in Bangladesh, 4th attack this year,” Fox News, 7 August 2015.

“4th blogger killed in Bangladesh by suspected militants,” The Sacramento Bee, 7 August 2015.

“Niloy murder: 14 wounds of ‘familiar style’,” The Daily Star, 8 August 2015.

“Fourth secular blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh,” The Sun Daily, 8 August 2015.

“Bangladesh Branch of AQIS Claims Murder of Blogger Niloy Neel,” Site Intelligence Group, 7 August 2015.

Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, “Ansar al Islam names new leader,” The Long War Journal, 5 January 2012.

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