Bangladesh blogger hacked death
Picture taken on 27 February shows the dead body of Avijit Roy, a US blogger of Bangladeshi origin who was hacked to death, at Dhaka Medical Collage hospital morgue in DhakaGetty Images

Islamist groups in Bangladesh are trying to convert the country into an Islamic Republic by killing its secular bloggers and free speech advocates one by one, according to a leading activist and blogger.

In the latest brutal attack on the country's independent writers, 27-year-old Washiqur Rahman, described as a "progressive freethinker", was hacked to death in the capital Dhaka.

The murder comes weeks after prominent American atheist blogger Avijit Roy was also hacked to death at a crowded book fair. Bangladeshi police arrested a radical Islamist, Farabi Shafiur Rahman for the killing. The suspect is believed to be a member of the pan-Islamist outfit Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Imran Sarker, head of the Blogger and Online Activists Network in Bangladesh, told IBTimes UK that bloggers are the most exposed and targeted by fanatics in the Muslim-majority nation because they dare to "raise their voice in the interests of society against injustice and extremism".

"Bloggers are individualistic, it's easy to kill them because they are not affiliated to political parties which could protect them," he said.

"In Bangladesh political parties are just power-seekers. They negotiate with fundamentalist groups, especially those challenging our Constitution, secularism and the rights of the people. They always negotiate with political Islam."

"Islamist groups are trying to turn this nation into an Islamic Republic. They're trying to kill our constitution which is secular. They're killing one by one our activists, especially those strongly raising their voice in defence of religious minorities," Sarker said.

Avijit Roy, founder of the blog Mukto-Mona (free-mind) was killed when he was returning with his wife Rafida Ahmed from the book fair held every February. He had received several death threats from Islamists for his writings on religion and science.

Roy described himself on his Facebook page as a writer by passion.

"I have profound interest in freethinking, skepticism, philosophy, scientific thoughts and human rights of people," he wrote. "I write in the internet blogs (mainly in Mukto-Mona) and occasionally in some newspapers covering my interests."

He wrote about 10 books, including Biswasher Virus (Virus of Faith), his most well-known work.

The main suspect for Roy's murder, Farabi Shafiur Rahman, had exchanged the blogger's location, identity and family's pictures with various people on different occasions. He wrote on Facebook "Avijit Roy lives in America. So it's not possible to kill him at this moment. But when he'll return to the country, he'll be murdered".

Sarker says that al-Qaeda-linked groups are the main culprits for the murder.

His Shabag movement, which draws inspiration from the 2013 protests that erupted in Dhaka to demand capital punishment for Islamist leader and war-crimes convict Abdul Quader Mollah, has called for a street rally in defence of free speech.

"We are a non-partisan, non-violent movement formed by young Bangladeshis against communal terrorism and terrorism," he said.

Washiqur Raman was the second atheist blogger to have been murdered in the Muslim-majority country in the last two years and the fourth writer to have been attacked since 2004.