This year, Bangladesh has seen a disturbing spate of attacks against bloggers critical of Islam. On Tuesday 12 May, another blogger was hacked to death. Ananta Bijoy Das, 32, was killed as he left his home in the north-eastern city of Sylhet to go to work at a bank. Four masked men attacked him with cleavers and machetes.

No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but it comes after the murder of two other atheist bloggers in disturbingly similar circumstances. In March, Washiqur Rahman was hacked to death outside his home in the capital city Dhaka. In February, Bangladeshi-born American blogger, Avjit Roy was killed with machetes and knives as he returned home form a book fair.

They were not the first: in recent years, other atheist writers have been murdered too, but the attacks this year have been far more frequent. As the New Humanist noted in early March, after the murder of Roy:

The political climate in the country is intensely polarised, a situation which provides fertile ground for extremism to grow…

Certainly, in this volatile and polarised context, extremist groups feel empowered to take vigilante action against bloggers and journalists. And there is no doubt that this spectre of violence is having a chilling effect. Back in 2013, a list of 84 bloggers deemed to be “blasphemous” was published by an Islamist group. Some of these bloggers stopped writing altogether for fear of being attacked or arrested.

Today, following the murder of Das, CNN carried this report on his work:

Das was an atheist who contributed to Mukto Mona ("free thinkers"), the blog that Roy founded.

Mukto Mona contains sections titled "Science" and "Rationalism," and most of the articles hold science up to religion as a litmus test, which it invariably fails.

While he was critical of fundamentalism and the attack on secular thinkers, he was mostly concerned with championing science, a fellow blogger said.

He was the editor of a local science magazine, Jukti ("reason") and wrote several books, including one work on Darwin.

In 2006, the blog awarded him its Rationalist Award for his "deep and courageous interest in spreading secular & humanist ideals and messages in a place which is not only remote, but doesn't have even a handful of rationalists."

"He was a voice of social resistance; he was an activist," said Sarker. "And now, he too has been silenced."