Avijit Roy, 42, was a naturalized American living in Georgia. He was a frequent critic of radical Islamic doctrine. At least two attackers descended on Roy and his wife, blogger Rafida Ahmed Bonna, near Dhaka University. She was hospitalized with several stab wounds and a severed finger.
No arrests have been made and no suspects identified. But police reportedly found two machetes and a finger at the scene. The couple was in Dhaka to attend an annual national book fair where two of Roy's works were being promoted.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism profiled Roy last year after death threats against him and a top Bangladeshi bookseller prompted the company to stop selling Roy's books. He said he felt safe in America, but took the death threats seriously. "Who knows, some miscreants might take him up and act on it."
The threats came from Islamist Farabi Shafiur Rahman, allegedly a member of the radical Jamaat e Islami, who issued them publicly but remained free.
Rahman noted on Facebook that "Avijit Roy lives in America and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. But he will be murdered when he comes back." The threat apparently proved all too real Thursday night.
The threat also targeted the bookseller Rokomari.com, invoking the name of blogger Rajib Haidar, who also was hacked to death by Islamists in February 2013. Haidar, known as Thaba Baba, advocated for war crimes tribunals for alleged leaders of the 1971 killings of intellectuals and leaders after Bangladesh's war of independence against Pakistan. Rokomari stopped selling Roy's books in response.
In an article last fall, Roy described how his book The Virus of Faith, was well received and became a best-seller at last year's book fair. But the book also "hit the cranial nerve of fundamentalists," he wrote. "The death threats started flowing to my inbox on a regular basis. I suddenly found myself to be a target of militant Islamists and terrorists."
In the essay, Roy discussed the problem of Islamist violence, but struck a defiant tone.
"Well, I am still alive despite Farabi [Rahman]-threats- writing a blog remembering the Blasphemy day," he wrote. "My books are also going well; at least this is what I hear from my publishers. Apparently, readers did not need Rokomari to get my books ... There is nothing much to complain about life right now. But that is not the point I would like to make here."
Roy died for having ideas that radical Islamists considered blasphemous. He joins martyrs for free expression, like those at Charlie Hebdo who were slaughtered in Paris last month.
More than a quarter of British Muslims sympathize with the terrorists who committed the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris last month, according to a new ComRes poll conducted for the BBC. These findings indicate that a substantial minority of Muslims in Britain approve of murder against individuals deemed to have insulted the Prophet Mohammed.
Roughly 27 percent of the respondents said that they have "some sympathy for the motives behind the attacks" while 32 percent said that they were not surprised by the terrorist attacks.
While 68 percent of British Muslims believe that such attacks are "never" justified, 24 percent disagreed. Moreover, 11 percent said that magazines which publish pictures of the prophet "deserve to be attacked."
In January, radical Islamist terrorists killed 17 people in shooting attacks at the satirical weekly paper Charlie Hebdo and at a kosher supermarket in Paris.
In a column, former radical Islamist Maajid Nawaz called the survey results "profoundly disconcerting. But they are far from surprising."
They are the result of separate educational programs for British Muslims along with an overall insular existence, he writes. "Disintegration from British society creates a breeding ground for preaching of religious hatred."
The problem is worsened when the rest of society avoids debating the challenges posed by Islamist ideology, Nawaz writes.
And it is not a problem limited to Europe. A 2007 Pew poll found that 26 percent of Muslim Americans under age 30 found suicide bombings could be justifiable.
Click here to see the full BBC polling results.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi wants a unified Arab front to combat ISIS terrorists.
"The need for a unified Arab force is growing and becoming more pressing every day," said Sisi in a televised speech on Sunday.
He acknowledged that Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have offered military assistance as Egypt escalates its war with ISIS in Libya.
The Egyptian president did not elaborate on what a "united Arab force" would entail, stopping short of calling for a ground invasion. The notion of a unified Arab military force has been discussed in the past; however, immense historic distrust within Arab countries has hindered any coherent formation of such a coalition.
The United States, which leads the coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, has conducted 80 percent of the airstrikes. However, ISIS' murderous ideology has spread beyond Iraq and Syria into other countries including Libya and Egypt, constituting a common regional threat.
Sisi's proposition comes in context of rapid ISIS territorial advances and atrocities in recent weeks. Last week, the terrorist organization released a horrendous video reportedly showing terrorists beheading 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach.
As a result, Egypt initiated a series of airstrikes targeting ISIS terrorists and bases in Libya. Egypt also continues to battle Sinai-based jihadists who are affiliated with ISIS and are committed to escalating a protracted insurgency in the Peninsula.
ISIS released new footage on Saturday allegedly displaying Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in cages on top of pickup trucks, parading down the streets of Iraq. The edited video also features images of the previous beheadings of the Egyptian Christians.
Meanwhile, reports Tuesday indicate that as many as 90 Christians have been kidnapped from Tel Tamr, a northern Syrian village.
As a grave threat to regional stability, ISIS expansion and its ongoing brutal campaign serve as an opportunity for the major Arab countries to unify and confront the radical Islamist challenge. It remains to be seen what a coherent Arab counteroffensive would look like in a regional characterized by complex divisions and overlapping cleavages.
Spy cables reveal that the CIA attempted to interact with Hamas, despite U.S. government prohibitions on contact with the designated Palestinian terrorist organization, the Guardian reports.
The cables, obtained by the Al Jazeerah network, indicate that American intelligence was eager to establish connections with Hamas and recruit agents within the Gaza Strip. According to the leaked documents, a CIA officer and South African intelligence agent met in East Jerusalem during fighting between Hamas and Israel. A cable sent to Pretoria on June 29, 2012 revealed that the CIA agent "seems to be desperate to make inroads into Hamas in Gaza and possibly would like SSA [the South African State Security Agency] to assist them in gaining access."
In return, the South African agency suggested that the SSA would be able to access American intelligence priorities and understand CIA collection methods throughout the proposed interaction between the CIA and Hamas.
The CIA is prohibited from providing material assistance to a terrorist organization; however, attempting to recruit a spy from within a terrorist organization would be within the intelligence agency's mandate.
"[The] CIA supports the overall US government effort to combat international terrorism by collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence on foreign terrorist groups and individuals. [The] CIA conducts those intelligence activities in compliance with the United States constitution, federal statutes and presidential directives," a CIA spokesperson said.
Palestinian Authority (PA) policies, including direct financial support to employees convicted by on terrorism charges, and payments to families of those killed waging terrorist attacks, make it liable for damages in attacks which killed wounded Americans, a New York jury decided Monday.
Jurors awarded $218.5 million in damages to the victims and their families. Provisions in the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act triple that to $655.5 million.
The jury's award "will not bring back these families' loved ones, nor heal the physical and psychological wounds inflicted upon them, but it truly is an important measure of justice and closure for them after their long years of tragic suffering and pain," said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Israel's Shurat HaDin law center, said after the jury award was announced. Darshan-Leitner has helped bring numerous civil cases against sponsors of terrorist attacks, saying the aim here, as in the other cases is "making the defendants pay for their terrorist crimes against innocent civilians and letting them know that there will eventually be a price to be paid for sending suicide bombers onto our buses and into our cafes."
The judgment comes at a particularly difficult time for the Palestinian Authority, already strapped for cash and hoping to secure a place in the International Criminal Court to pursue war crimes charges against Israelis.
The jury received the case late Thursday, after about six weeks of testimony. They heard from survivors and eyewitnesses to the attacks, which included shooting sprees on Jerusalem streets, suicide bombings and the bombing of a Hebrew University cafeteria. Those attacks killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more.
Targeting civilians was "standard operating procedure" for the Palestine Liberation Organization, its Fatah military wing and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, plaintiffs' attorney Kent Yalowitz told jurors when the trial began. Yasser Arafat, the PLO's longtime chairman and the PA's president, controlled all those entities.
Arafat's handwritten consent appears on PA documents detailing the payments to the terrorists and their families that later were seized by Israeli military forces. Those records became key evidence showing the PA's knowledge and support for the bloody wave of attacks. One 2002 report sent to the PA's General Intelligence Service chief praised a West Bank squad for its "high quality successful attacks."
The squad's "men are very close to us (i.e. to the General Intelligence) and maintain with us continuous coordination and contacts," the report said.
Many of the attackers and their accomplices were PA employees. Those who were sent to Israeli prisons remained on the PA payroll, with periodic raises depending on the length of their sentences.
Palestinian officials promise to appeal.
Defense attorneys maintained that the terrorists acted on their own and that the PA could not be responsible for the actions of all of its employees. In his closing argument, Yalowitz asked jurors to consider the outrageous nature of such communication.
"If you have a policy that says: If you commit a terrorist act, you keep your job," gain promotions and keep your pay while serving a prison sentence, "that says something about who you are and what you believe in."
Deliberations are expected to be underway today in a civil lawsuit brought by American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks during the second Intifada.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) could face $1 billion in damages to the victims' families and survivors of the attacks if jurors find that it, along with the Palestine Liberation Organization and its branches, encouraged its people to carry out attacks on Israeli civilians. The attacks took place between 2001-04 and include shooting attacks on public streets and bombings targeting buses and a Hebrew University cafeteria.
During six weeks of testimony, jurors saw internal PA documents which detailed payments to terrorists being held in Israeli prisons, and to families of terrorists killed carrying out attacks. In closing arguments Thursday, defense attorney Mark Rochon reiterated the PA's claim that the terrorists acted on their own. Payments to the families were meant to provide support for those suddenly left without the breadwinner's income.
For those in prison, the payments increased based upon the length of sentence. That support still flows today.
Kent Yalowitz, who represents the American victims, argued that the PA's documents show that the violence was sanctioned at the highest levels.
"Where are the documents punishing employees for killing people? We don't have anything like that in this case," Yalowitz said.
What they do have are documents detailing the payments to the terrorists and their families containing hand-written notes of approval by longtime PLO Chairman and then PA President Yasser Arafat. In addition, a 2002 report about West Bank operations sent to the PA's General Intelligence Service chief praised one squad for its "high quality successful attacks."
The squad's "men are very close to us (i.e. to the General Intelligence) and maintain with us continuous coordination and contacts," the report said. Some of the attacks at issue were carried out by Fatah, the PLO's armed wing, or the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Records show those groups ultimately were part of the same hierarchy controlled by Arafat until his death in 2004.
The lawsuit, Sokolow v. PLO, was brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The plaintiffs asked for a judgment of $350 million, but that could be tripled under the law's provisions because terrorist acts were at issue.
The prospect of such a huge judgment isn't the Palestinian Authority's only worry. A judgment against the PA "threatens to undermine Palestinian efforts to rally international support for a brewing battle at the International Criminal Court in The Hague," according to an Associated Press report.
It cited multiple PA officials who acknowledged anxiety over the jury's deliberations.
Saying defense attorneys have merely rehashed old arguments on which he's already ruled, a federal judge on Friday rejected a request to either grant Rasmieh Odeh a new trial or overturn the jury's November conviction.
Odeh, 67, was found guilty Nov. 10 on one count of naturalization fraud for failing to disclose her Israeli convictions for leading a 1969 Jerusalem grocery store bombing plot that left two college students dead. Odeh claimed her convictions were a product of mistreatment in Israeli custody.
In applications to come to the United States on a visa in 1995, and to become an American citizen in 2004, Odeh claimed she had never been arrested, convicted or imprisoned. At various times, she claimed she thought the question only pertained to her time in the United States, or didn't mention the Israeli case because she felt it was an unjust verdict.
Her naturalization fraud case prompted a national campaign to cast Odeh as a victim of persecution and to pressure prosecutors into dropping the charge.
Defense attorneys asked for a new trial, saying U.S. District Judge Gershwin A. Drain erred in pre-trial rulings which aimed at keeping the case focused on what Odeh told U.S. immigration officials and not re-trying her Israeli terrorism case. One ruling barred expert testimony which would have claimed Odeh suffered post-traumatic stress from her time in Israeli custody.
Drain seemed frustrated by the defense motion, describing it as "so lacking in legal authority and argument, it should be denied on this basis alone. Defendant claims the Court committed nine legal errors, yet fails to cite a single case, statute, rule or other authority supporting her assertion. Defendant did not even include the legal standard for granting new trials. Nor does she develop her arguments in any meaningful way."
He pointed to trial testimony from immigration officers who said visa applicants and immigrants applying for naturalization are denied if it is known they had convictions for crimes like murder and terrorism.
Jurors believed those officials and "clearly did not believe Defendant's explanation" about misunderstanding the questions, Drain wrote. "[T]he evidence was more than sufficient to support the jury's verdict."
Odeh is scheduled to be sentenced March 12 in Detroit. She faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and will lose her American citizenship.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that his government would not give into the "Jewish lobby" that he says is working against the ruling AKP Party.
"I announce it from here: we have not and will not succumb to the Jewish lobby, the Armenian lobby or the Turkish-Greek minority's lobbies," Davutoglu said at a party gathering Sunday.
Arbitrary references to the "Jewish lobby" in the Muslim world can be construed as anti-Semitic sentiment without factual evidence supporting such claims. Leaders in various countries have historically blamed Jews and Israel for internal woes to alleviate domestic pressure and propagate the concept of an external enemy in order to cultivate regime legitimacy.
The vague allegations come in context of baseless accusations by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who says that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, was cooperating with the "parallel structure," or members within the government allegedly seeking to topple the regime.
"The sincere people backing this parallel structure should see with whom this structure is cooperating with … Shame on them if they still cannot see that this structure is cooperating with the Mossad," Erdogan said Jan. 31.
Key Turkish leaders have made numerous controversial and anti-Semitic statements in the past. Last year, Erdogan compared Israel to Hitler and predicted that the Jewish state "will drown in the blood that they shed" at a rally before his presidential election. The Turkish president has also referred to Israel as a "crime against humanity." His government actively supports Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, committed to the Jewish state's destruction.
Other senior Turkish officials have also blamed their country's problems on Jews.
The ruling AKP party mayor of Ankara also referenced the popular summer 2013 anti-government protests in Gezi as "a game of the Jewish lobby."
"World powers and the Jewish Diaspora prompted the unrest and have actively encouraged it," said now former Turkish deputy prime minister Besir Atalay in July 2013.
Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist organizations are intensifying efforts to rebuild military capabilities damaged during last summer's war with Israel, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reports. In light of ongoing delays in civilian reconstruction, Hamas clearly is prioritizing re-arming its terrorist forces over the population's wellbeing.
In 2009, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal admitted that most of the terrorist group's efforts would be devoted to a military build-up.
"Outwardly the visible picture is talks about reconciliation…and construction; however, the hidden picture is that most of the money and effort is invested in the resistance and military preparations," Meshaal said.
The term "resistance" is often used in reference to terrorist attacks targeting Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Hamas also is actively recruiting youth to participate in terrorist training camps. More than 17,000 recruits between the ages of 15 and 17 have been trained in the abduction of Israeli troops, exiting tunnels, and radical Islamist indoctrination. In addition to replenishing lost fighters, these training programs seek to enhance Hamas' popularity in Gaza while the civilians suffer from deteriorating living standards largely because of the terrorist organization's military rebuilding priorities.
Moreover, Hamas has created a military framework which now features the first battalion in its new "popular army" including 2,500 fighters who will support the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades in a future battle with Israel. Other terrorist organizations, including The Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, reportedly have established similar military structures.
Terrorist training exercises include taking control of Israeli military posts near the Gaza border and kidnapping soldiers. Hamas believes that abducting an Israeli soldier or the body of a soldier will help it secure the release of jailed terrorists in future negotiations.
Earlier reports following the last war also confirmed that Hamas was diverting reconstruction material in order to rebuild its network of underground infiltration tunnels. Shortly after the summer war, Hamas and Fatah's military wing bragged about their domestic missile production capabilities and efforts.
Hamas reportedly test-fired several new rockets over the Mediterranean Sea last month.
Gaza's terrorist organizations continue to exploit the ceasefire and resources intended for civilian projects to bolster offensive military capabilities as they actively prepare for the next war with Israel.
An Egyptian court has labeled the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, a terrorist organization.
"The court ruled to ban the Qassam Brigades and to list it as a terrorist group," Judge Mohamed al-Sayid said Saturday in an interview with Reuters.
The decision came as a result of a suit brought by Egyptian attorney Samir Sabri that accused the Qassam Brigades of financing and participating in attacks in Egypt against police, military and other targets. Hamas has diverged from its goal of fighting Israel and now aims to undermine Egypt's internal security, according to the Egyptian court.
The court's decision centered on the Qassam Brigades' alleged involvement in a series of terrorist attacks, including one in October that killed 31 Egyptian soldiers. Sabri's suit also claimed that Hamas' armed wing smuggled weapons and funds into Egypt through a network of tunnels.
Egyptian security forces expanded their buffer zone along the border with Gaza in November in an effort to crackdown on the terrorist group's smuggling operations. They claim to have destroyed 1,600 tunnels since President Mohamed Morsi's ouster in July 2013.
Egypt's government blames the Qassam Brigades for the spate of terrorist violence in the Sinai by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a Salafi-jihadist group aligned with the Islamic State, which is believed to be responsible for hundreds of attacks in Egypt.
Last May, Egypt's Supreme State Security Prosecution claimed that 200 suspects tied to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis received training at camps run by the Qassam Brigades.
Last week, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis launched a series of attacks across the northern Sinai that killed 20 people, including civilians, and left 36 wounded. The attacks included a car bomb that detonated outside a military base and a series of mortar rounds that were fired at a hotel and several checkpoints.
Hamas dismissed the decision, labeling it as politics. Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the ruling "dangerous" and claimed it only "serves the Israeli occupation," also stating that the Qassam Brigades don't have an interest in interfering with Egypt's internal affairs.
Hamas deputy political leader Mousa abu Marzook denounced the ruling, calling the current Egyptian regime a "coup against the history, the ethics, and the principles of Egypt," according to the Ma'an News Agency.
"Historically, the Qassam Brigades has never pointed their rifles at any of our people, especially our big sister Egypt and her army," Marzook said.
A different court ruling from March banned Hamas from operating in Egypt. That came amid a crackdown on the terrorist group's parent organization – the Muslim Brotherhood.