US Announces $5 Mn Reward for Info on Terrorist Attack on Atheist Blogger Avijit Roy, Wife

The US has offered a reward of up to USD 5 million for information on the henious terrorist attack in Bangladesh in 2015 that left Bangladeshi-American atheist blogger Avijit Roy dead and his wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed seriously injured, the State Department has announced. Roy, a 42-year-old Bangladesh-born US citizen, was hacked to death by Islamist militants just after he left a book fair at the Dhaka University on February 26, 2015. His wife Rafida Ahmed was also injured in the attack.

He was an outspoken critic of religious fundamentalism. The US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, through its Rewards for Justice (RFJ) office, is offering a reward for information on the terrorist attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh that left US citizen Avijit Roy dead and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, seriously injured, the US state Department said in a statement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has authorised a reward of up to USD 5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of anyone involved in the murder of Roy and the attack on Ahmed, it said. On February 26, 2015, Roy and Ahmed, both Bangladesh-born US citizens, were visiting Dhaka to attend a book fair when they were attacked by assailants with machetes, it said, adding that while Roy was killed, Ahmed survived with critical injuries.

This investigation remains open, and we are seeking information that will assist law enforcement agencies in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this heinous terrorist attack. A total of 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, it said.

Ansarullah Bangla Team, an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist group based in Bangladesh, claimed responsibility for the attack. Shortly thereafter, Asim Umar, the now-deceased leader of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), posted a widely circulated video claiming that AQIS followers were responsible for the attack on Roy and Ahmed, the state department said. In 2016, the Department of State designated AQIS as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224, which provides authority to sanction terrorists and those who support terrorists or terrorist acts, it added.

In 2015, the US had strongly condemned the “brutal murder” of Roy, terming the killing as an act of cowardice. “The United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal murder of Avijit Roy, which was horrific in its brutality and cowardice,” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki had said.

“Avijit was a journalist, a humanist, a husband, and a friend, and we extend our condolences to his family and friends. He was taken from us in a shocking act of violence,” she had said. In February, a special anti-terrorism tribunal sentenced five members of a banned Islamist militant group, including a fugitive army major, to death and a sixth man to life in prison for killing Roy in 2015.

Bangladesh had witnessed an alarming rise of militant activities in 2015 when four “atheist” bloggers were murdered with authorities attributing the attacks to homegrown terrorists while Islamic State at that time had claimed responsibility for three attacks. An attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka in 2016 was the worst terrorist incident when 22 people, including 17 foreigners, were killed. A Bangladeshi court subsequently sentenced seven of the eight suspects to death.

But it prompted the South Asian country with Muslim majority population to virtually declare a total war against Islamists engaging Army, paramilitary and elite police units that saw a series of countrywide raids on militant hideouts and deaths of dozens of extremists.

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