Al Qaida claims responsibility for student activist death
A banned group in Bangladesh tied to al Qaida has claimed responsibility for the murder of a student opponent of radical Islam.
The killing of 28-year-old Nazimuddin Samad on Wednesday night followed a string of similar attacks last year when at least five secular bloggers and publishers were killed apparently by radical Islamists.
According to the SITE Intelligence monitoring group, Ansar al-Islam, the Bangladesh division of al Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, or Aqis, said in a statement posted online that its members carried out the attack in "vengeance".
It said Mr Samad "abused" God, the Prophet Mohammed and Islam.
Bangladeshi police declined to make any comment about the statement but said they were investigating.
"This operation was conducted to teach a lesson to the blasphemers of this land whose poisonous tongues are constantly abusing Allah, the religion of Islam and the Messenger under the pretext of so-called freedom of speech."
Three motorcycle-riding assailants hacked and shot Mr Samad when he was walking with a friend after finishing his law class at a state-run university in the capital, Dhaka.
Investigators said he was apparently targeted for his outspoken atheism in the Muslim-majority country, and for supporting a 2013 movement to demand capital punishment for war crimes involving the independence war against Pakistan in 1971.
Many of his posts criticised radical Islam and promoted secularism. He was a supporter of prime minister Sheikh Hasina's secular Awami League party and backed the push for prosecutors to have more scope for going after suspected war criminals.
Mr Hasina's government has been cracking down on radical Islamists and blamed them for the deadly attacks last year on secular bloggers, minority Shiites, Christians and two foreigners. It accuses the opposition of supporting religious radicals in seeking to retaliate against the government for prosecuting suspected war crimes.
Some of the attacks were claimed by Islamic State, but the government dismisses those claims and says the Sunni extremist group has no presence in the country.