- The 42-year-old and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, also a blogger, were returning home from a book fair in Dhaka on Feb. 26, 2015, when they were attacked.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of anyone involved in the murder of Bangladeshi American blogger Avijit Roy. He was visiting his native country when he was murdered in February 2015 for his often critical views on religious extremism. Roy, 42, and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, also a blogger, were returning home from a book fair in Dhaka on Feb. 26, 2015, when they were attacked. Ahmed was seriously injured.
According to a media note issued by the State Department, it is seeking information “that will assist law enforcement agencies in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this heinous terrorist attack.” The award is offered through the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, through its Rewards for Justice (RFJ) office.
According to the State Department’s media note, “two related groups have claimed responsibility..” Ansarullah Bangla Team, an al-Qa’ida-inspired terrorist group based in Bangladesh, claimed responsibility for the attack. Shortly thereafter, Asim Umar, the now-deceased leader of al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), posted a widely circulated video claiming that AQIS followers were responsible for the attack on Roy and Ahmed.
Earlier in February, six individuals were charged, tried, and convicted in Bangladesh. Two of the convicted conspirators, Syed Ziaul Haque (aka Major Zia) and Akram Hussain were tried in absentia and remain at large.
Meanwhile, after the February sentencing, Roy’s wife, Ahmed, wrote about the verdict in a blog. She also recalled the fateful day her husband was murdered in front of her eyes. “We got a verdict today after six years of confusion and delay,” she wrote. “I am sorry for turning down media requests for interviews. Instead, I am posting this statement below to summarize the situation and pose questions that have gone unanswered.”
She continued: “In 2015 my late husband Avijit Roy — Avi — and I visited Bangladesh, our home country, for the annual book fair where two of Avi’s books were being published. We were attacked by Islamist terrorists. Avi died, I barely survived and then the killing spree continued for another year,” she says. According to news reports, Ahmed suffered head injuries and lost a finger.
“The main two culprits — Sayed Ziaul Haque, the top commander, and Akram, the top operative of the militant group that attacked us — have never been caught,” Ahmed wrote in the blog. “Last week (in the verdict following the murder of Avi’s publisher, Faisal Arefin Dipan, in 2015), we learned that Haque continued to mastermind the serial killings of other secular writers and publishers for eight months after Avi and I were attacked. And yet, Bangladeshi authorities failed to put him behind bars,” she wrote.“This verdict is not closure for me or our family, I never expected it to be,” she wrote. During the six years of investigation, Ahmed noted that “not one person investigating the case in Bangladesh reached out to me — though I am a direct witness and victim of the attack.”
Observing that “Bangladesh’s government has become more autocratic since we were attacked,” she wrote it’s about how “freedom of speech has been restricted further, secular writers, bloggers, activists were forced to leave the country during and after 2015, a harsher Digital Security Act has been enacted, bloggers, writers, publishers have been persecuted for their writings on a regular basis.” Roy’s assassination on Feb.26, 2015, was subsequently followed by the murders of several other bloggers, publishers, and freethinkers.
She continued: “Simply prosecuting a few foot soldiers — and ignoring the rise and roots of extremism — does not mean justice for Avi’s death, nor for the deaths of the ‘bloggers, publishers and homosexuals’ before and after him as part of the serial killing. That’s why this verdict will not bring peace to my family or theirs.”