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Bangladesh 27 January 2004

Underground Maoist group admits responsibility for journalist’s murder and threatens nine others

An underground Maoist organisation has admitted responsibility for the murder of a BBC stringer and in a letter, apparently from its leader, threatened to kill nine more named journalists in the region.

Manik Saha died instantly when a bomb was thrown at his head in a street in Khulna in the country’s south-west on 15 January.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) called on the authorities, in particular the interior minister, to continue to explore every avenue to track down and punish Saha’s killers.

The international press freedom organisation added that it believed that the death threats again nine other journalists should "unfortunately" be taken very seriously. "Khulna police should do everything possible to protect the nine journalists who are under death threat," it added.

Reporters Without Borders has for several years denounced the activities of Bangladesh’s underground Maoist groups.

Gaffar Tushar, leader of the Maoist group, "The People’s War" admitted responsibility for murdering Manik Saha, correspondent for the daily New Age and stringer for the Bengali service of the BBC World Service, in a letter sent to the Khulna regional press club on 22 January.

This dissident faction of the Proletarian Party of East Bengal threatened to kill nine journalists in Satkhira, a town a few kilometres west of Khulna). Those named as under threat were: Mizamur Rahman, Kallayan Banerjee, Subash Chowdhury, Ram Krishna, Shahin Goldar, Kazi Dulal, Abul Kalam, Abdul Bari and M. Raju, all local correspondents for Dhaka-based dailies, who have written about the armed group’s illegal activities, in particular extortion. The journalists have all asked for police protection.

A few days earlier the Daily Star revealed that anonymous telephone calls had been made to several journalists in Khulna in which Saha was described as an "enemy of the revolution".

The journalist’s murder prompted a two-day general strike in Khulna on 16 and 17 January. Information minister Tariqul Islam, who went to the town, promised to leave no stone unturned to find and punish those responsible.

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