Author and professor Muhammad Zafar Iqbal was stabbed by a youth causing serious injury in the back of the head on Shahjalal University of Science and Technology campus Saturday afternoon.
Zafar Iqbal, a computer science and engineering professor of the university, was flown to Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka by an air ambulance from Sylhet Osmani Medical College Hospital for better treatment, official sources in Dhaka CMH said at about midnight.
The writer came under the attack at about 5:00pm when he was inspecting the projects displayed in a robotic competition at Muktamancha on the campus as part of a two-day festival of the university’s electrical and electronics engineering students.
Immediately after the attack, Zafar was admitted to Sylhet Osmani Medical College Hospital in a serious condition, witnesses said.
The incident took place merely a day after Zafar made a critical comment against students who were in a movement for reducing punishment of two students expelled from the university for ragging six freshers.
EEE student Mahir Abrar told New Age that a youth, aged about 24 and clad with blue jeans and deep-blue polo shirt, stabbed Zafar when he was inspecting the projects.
University students confined the attacker after chasing him while he was trying to flee the scene immediately after the attack and beat him up.
EEE teacher Mohsinur Rahman Adnan said that the attacker stabbed Zafar in the back of the head five times and tried to run away.
He said that many teachers and students present on the spot chased the attacker while others were trying to help Zafar.
‘Don’t get excited. I’m alright. Send me to hospital,’ Adnan quoted Zafar to have said.
He said that Zafar did not lose conscious despite profuse bleeding.
He was given first aid immediately after arrival at the hospital and then he was brought to the hospital laboratory to have done a CT-scan.
Sylhet Osmani Medical College principal Murshed Ahmed Chowdhury accompanied by hospital director Brigadier General Mahbubul Haque and ear, nose and throat department chief Nanda Kumar Kishor briefed reporters at about 8:10pm.
Murshed said Zafar was out of danger. ‘But, we think it will be better to send him to Dhaka for better treatment,’ he said, adding that it would be tough to control if the bleeding began further from the wounds.
Sylhet city Awami League president Badar Uddin Ahmad Kamran and its general secretary, who were present there, told reporters that they had contacted with prime minister Sheikh Hasina for the treatment of Zafar.
Mahbubul said that Zafar sustained four stabs, including three in the back of the head and one in the left hand.
‘Some 25-26 stitches have been done to stop bleeding from the wounds,’ the hospital director said.
University students caught the attacker immediately after the attack and beat him up, campus sources said.
Later, police with the help of teachers rescued the attacker from mass beating and kept him confined to a room at the Academic Building A.
The agitated students kept the building cordoned off for handing him over to them until he was shifted to Jalalabad Ragib-Rabeya Medical College Hospital, a private hospital adjacent to the campus, the sources said.
They also kept the main road on the campus blocked and staged demonstration to protest at the attack, students said.
They informed that the police with the help of Rapid Action Battalion brought out the attacker from the campus at about 9:25pm and moved towards the city by a jeep.
Jalalabad police officer-in-charge Shafiqur Rahman said that the attacker was admitted to the private hospital.
Doctors at the hospital said that the physical condition of the attacker was normal as shown in the medical cheek up including CT-scan, the police officer said.
He said that one of the police personnel was also injured when the attacker was confined on the campus.
He said that additional cops were deployed on the campus as police took the attacker in custody at about 9:30pm.
Seeing a photo of the attacker, a trader of Kumargaon Bus Terminal in the city identified him as Fayzur Rahman, who along with his family had been living at a rented house at Sheikhpara adjacent to the bus terminal.
He said that Fayzur, son of Hafez Atiqur Rahman of Dirai upazila in Sunamganj, used to introduce himself as a madrassah student. His father is a teacher of a madrassah at Tukerbazar, on the outskirts of Sylhet city.
Sylhet Metropolitan Police additional deputy commissioner Abdul Wahab, however, said that they were conducting inquiry keeping all data extracted so far from different sources to identify the attacker and the mastermind behind the attack.
Earlier, Muhammad Zafar Iqbal was threatened to kill on several occasions by different extremist groups for his progressive activities and being a secular author.
Sylhet Metropolitan Police has been providing him with protection since April 30, 2016 to ensure his security on the SUST campus and in and around the Sylhet city.
University teachers and students said that they believed that Zafar was attacked following his Friday’s comment.
Addressing a discussion meeting at the university auditorium as part of the two-day festival on Friday, Zafar said that those who were supporting the ragging should be handed over to police. ‘I’m ashamed being a teacher of these students,’ he said.
Earlier on February 28, university syndicate expelled two students permanently and suspended three others for one year on charge of ragging six freshers on February 15.
A group of students on March 1 staged demonstrations on the campus for reconsidering the decision of expelling the two students permanently.
Rapid Action Battalion-9 commander Ali Haider Azad Ahmed said that they had taken the injured attacker under their custody.
He said that they had been providing treatment to the attacker under their custody and that they were yet to establish the identity of the attacker.
Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crimes deputy commissioner Mohibul Islam Khan said that a team of unit officials would go to Sylhet to interrogate the arrested suspect.
Unit sources said that the team would visit the spot and interrogate the suspect keeping the fact of threats on the writer and academic from different extremists in mind.
The attack bears the hallmark of attacks on secular writers, bloggers and activists allegedly by religious extremists.
On February 27, 2004, writer and Dhaka University professor Humayun Azad was hacked in the jaw, lower part of the neck and hands near the campus during the Ekushe Book Fair.
Besides, a number of free thinking writers and bloggers as well as Hindu priests were hacked to death at places of the country allegedly by religious extremists between 2013 and 2016.
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