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Bangladesh Islamists Hovering Over Editor's Killing

 Eight Islamic extremists were sentenced to death in Bangladesh on Wednesday for the murder of an editor as the Muslim-majority nation grapples with tensions between religious hardliners and secularists.

Bangladesh Islamists Hovering Over Editor's Killing

Faisal Arefin Dipan, 43, owner of a Dhaka-based publishing house that had published several atheist books, was shot dead in October 2015 by men suspected of being members of a local jihadist group.

The attack was part of a wave of violence between 2013 and 2016 targeting secular activists, bloggers, and atheist writers.

Several senior leaders of Islamist political parties were hanged in the violence under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Prosecutor Golam Sarwar Zakir told AFP that the judge of the Dhaka Special Anti-Terrorism Court sentenced the eight defendants.

"He (the judge) said that his goal was to silence the voice of the people by murdering bloggers, writers and editors. They wanted to disrupt public safety by creating panic among the people," Zakir said.

Two of the men remain at large and were sentenced in absentia, including mastermind Syed Ziaul Haque, a fired army officer, Zakir added.

Haque has been charged with the murder of several secular activists.

A defense attorney for the eight men said they would appeal the sentences.

The Bangladeshi government has created two major anti-terror police units in recent years to crack down on Islamic extremists.

More than 100 suspected Islamists have been killed in counterterrorism raids across the country and hundreds have been arrested. Around half a dozen militant Islamist groups have been banned.

Bangladeshi star cricketer Shakib Al Hasan has become the latest target of the radicals and had to receive an armed bodyguard after he was threatened for attending a Hindu ceremony in neighboring India.

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