A court in Bangladesh sentenced five members of an al Qaida-inspired terrorist group to death for the killing of a secular American blogger.
Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-born U.S. citizen, was hacked to death with machetes as he left a book fair in Dhaka in February 2015. Roy’s wife Rafida Ahmed, also a blogger, suffered head injuries from the attack and lost a finger, Reuters reported.
Ansar al-Islam, a group linked to al-Qaida that is banned in Bangladesh, was determined to have been behind the attack. Public prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan said six men were convicted in connection to the attack, and that the terror group was behind more than a dozen murders of secular activists and bloggers, according to Reuters. (RELATED: Bangladesh Approves Death Penalty For Rapists)
“Charges against them were proved beyond any doubt. The court gave them the highest punishment,” Khan said after the verdict at the Special Anti-Terrorism Tribunal in the Dhaka, Reuters reported.
The court accused former army major Syed Ziaul Haque of leading the attackers, and sentenced him to be hanged for murdering Roy. Abu Siddique Sohel, Mozammel Hossain, Arafat Rahman and Akram Hossain also received the death sentence.
Haque and Akram Hossain were tried in absentia because they were still on the run, according to the BBC.
One man, Shafiur Rahman Farabi, was sentenced to life in prison after being arrested in connection with the attack in March 2015, and in June 2016, police fatally shot the main suspect in Roy’s murder, the BBC reported.
Roy was an atheist who angered radicals with his writing that focused on religion, according to the BBC.
The attack was among several targeting secular activists and religious minorities, and police believe groups inspired by al-Qaida and ISIS were behind a string of attacks that occurred in the country between 2013 and 2016.
The deadliest attack came in July 2016, when gunmen killed 22 people, mostly foreigners, in a Dhaka cafe that was popular among expats and wealthy locals.
The government responded with a crackdown on suspected Islamists as part of the country’s effort to preserve its image as a moderate Muslim nation, according to Reuters. More than 100 suspected militants were killed in raids and hundreds were arrested.
Eight Islamic militants were sentenced to death Wednesday for the 2015 killing of Faisal Abedin Deepan and Ahmed Rashid Tutul, who published books on secularism and atheism and were Roy’s publishers.