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Tuesday, January 19, 1999 Published at 14:49 GMT

World: South Asia

Bangladeshi poet survives attack

A poem by Shamsur Rahman - well known for his secular views

By the South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

Police in Bangladesh say that members of a militant Islamic group have raided the home of a leading Bengali poet, Shamsur Rahman, in the capital, Dhaka.

Mr Rahman, who is well known in Bangladesh for his secular views, and his wife were in their house when the men, armed with pickaxes stormed the building.

Police say that two men from the clandestine Islamic group, Harkatul Jihad, were restrained by Mr Rahman's neighbours and arrested after the assault.

Mr Rahman is arguably the most famous living Bengali poet, who commands much respect both in Bangladesh and in the Indian state of West Bengal.

The attack on him and his family on Monday night is yet another indication that Muslim hardliners in the country are targeting writers and intellectuals who they perceive to be either too liberal or un-Islamic.

Mr Rahman is renowned for his secular views. The attack on him is bound to cause some consternation in Bangladesh, especially because it took place just before the Muslim Eid celebration.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Rahman said that that three assailants wielding pick-axes carried out the attack.

He says that when they tried to strike him, his wife intervened and was struck by one of the attackers. Mr Rahman says that she was seriously injured.

Police say the arrested men have admitted that they intended to kill Mr Rahman, and that their organisation is also planning to attack other leading secular intellectuals, including the controversial feminist writer, Taslima Nasreen.

The authorities say that extra security has now been provided to those individuals who the attackers named as targets.

However Mr Rahman says that he is not fully assured of his safety, and that Bangladesh is in danger of being held hostage by people he described as terrorists.

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