DHAKA — Nine journalists were wounded when a gang of men wielding machetes stormed Bangladesh’s best-known online media outlet and began slashing staff, police and witnesses said Tuesday.
At least 15 attackers burst into the offices of bdnews24.com late on Monday in northern Dhaka, leaving three people seriously wounded and prompting fresh protests about violence against the media in the deeply impoverished country.
“They broke open our office door and started yelling at us. Moments later they started hacking some of our colleagues in the office’s ground floor,” said senior reporter Abdur Rahim Harmachhi, who was slightly injured in the attack.
“Blood was all over the news-floor and in the staircase. Some of us hid on the upper-floor… The attack lasted several minutes, but for 40 minutes we could not take the injured to clinic as the gang was waiting downstairs,” he said.
Annie Wahid, wife of injured journalist Salahuddin Wahid, told AFP that her husband had been slashed on the thigh. “He lost a lot of blood and was badly shaken,” she said.
Police said two young men had been arrested in connection with the attack, for which the motive remained unclear, deputy commissioner of Dhaka police Lutful Kabir told AFP.
Home Minister Sahara Khatun ordered an investigation after visiting the offices of the media outlet.
Kabir confirmed that nine journalists and an office administrator had been wounded. Three of them were admitted to a clinic in a serious condition and underwent surgery on Tuesday.
Prodeep Chowdhury, chief reporter of the online newspaper, said reporters notebooks smeared with blood were still littered in the newsroom as shocked staff members struggled to get over the attack.
“We don’t know why it happened. But it is now easy to target journalists in the country. We want immediate arrest and trial of the attackers,” he said.
Hundreds of journalists staged a protest in front of the national press club in central Dhaka.
The incident was the latest in a series of assaults on Bangladeshi journalists in recent months. On Saturday, three photojournalists of the country’s leading newspaper Prothom Alo were beaten by police.
In February a prominent television journalist couple were stabbed to death at their home in Dhaka. No motive has been established for the double killing and no arrests have been made.
Bangladesh is among the worst nations in the world in combating deadly anti-press violence.
Twelve journalists have been murdered in connection with their work in Bangladesh since 1992, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Bdnews24.com is the country’s most respected Internet news outlet, regularly topping online viewership rankings.