‘Religious Zealots’ Attacked Science Writer, Bangladeshi PM Says

Kamran Reza Chowdhury and Sharif Khiam
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180305-BD-attack-folo-620.JPG People protesting the knife attack on Zafar Iqbal at Shahajalal University of Science and Technology in Sylhet form a human chain in Dhaka, March 5, 2018.
Monirul Alam/BenarNews

The man who slashed a prominent science fiction writer in Bangladesh on the weekend was a religious extremist, according to the country’s prime minister and a senior security official.

Police filed a case under the country’s anti-terrorism act against the 24-year-old suspect and an unknown number of accomplices, in the aftermath of the attack on writer Zafar Iqbal at a university campus in the northern city of Sylhet, the officer in charge at the nearby police station told BenarNews.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited the injured 65-year-old professor on Monday at a military hospital in Dhaka, where doctors said he was recovering.

“The nature of the attack has exposed who carried it out. Those who execute such incidents are religious zealots,” Hasina said Sunday at a program in Dhaka organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology to award scholarships for scientific research.

Col. Ali Haider, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) commanding officer in Sylhet, told a press conference in that city that militant rhetoric pushed suspect Faizur Rahman to attack. RAB officers had been interrogating the suspect since Saturday, he said.

“Faizur told us that he tried to kill Zafar Iqbal because he has been an enemy of Islam. Young people have been turning atheists by reading his books,” Haider claimed.

Another official noted that the knife used in the attack resembled weapons used by members of Ansarullah Bangla Team, (ABT), an outfit blamed for a string of fatal attacks on intellectuals and activists in 2015 and 2016.

“The knife has a heavy butt and a planned hacking could sever the head from the neck. But the right-handed suspect could not strike a blow as planned as he did not have enough space,” a police official who asked to remain anonymous told BenarNews.


‘He is not disclosing anything’

Iqbal was airlifted to Dhaka late Saturday following a brief stay at a local hospital, while the suspect remained at Osmani Medical College Hospital in Sylhet Monday. Students beat him in the wake of the attack, which took place during a robotics fair on campus.

“He survived a mob beating and he has been recovering. But we have not gotten any significant information from him,” Jalalabad Police Station officer-in-charge Shafiqur Rahman told BenarNews. “He is not disclosing anything to anyone.”

Sylhet Metropolitan Police Commissioner Golam Kibria told reporters on Monday that police had detained three suspects for questioning, without naming them.

Two on-duty officers seen talking on mobile phones during the attack were suspended, and police were trying to track down a suspected accomplice seen with Faizur. A photo showing the two men standing behind the professor, seen sitting on a sofa, went viral on Facebook.

Police have been questioning Faizur’s relatives, as well.

“Around 10:45 p.m. Sunday, Faizur’s father, Atiqur Rahman, and mother, Minara Begum, surrendered to us,” Rahman said, adding police are interrogating the couple.

Speaking to reporters in Dhaka, Zafar Iqbal’s wife denied that anyone could become an atheist by reading his books. Iqbal is the author of science fiction novels for young people as well as academic books on physics and mathematics.

“Zafar Iqbal has written 200 books … he hasn’t written a single sentence in a single book against Islam. It is a fact,” Yasmeen Haque said.


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