Bangladesh police said Tuesday they are investigating an email sent to various media organizations reportedly by a banned Islamist group threatening to topple "towering buildings" and telling the media not to run anything that goes against what it called jihad.
The email — sent after a series of deadly attacks targeting moderates and foreigners — contains a six-point directive that includes telling women to stay at home. It urges businesses to fire any female employees, and says that working outside of the home is a "punishable offense" according to Shariah, or Islamic law. It does not elaborate what would constitute appropriate punishment.
The letter is signed by the group Ansarullah Bangla Team, which is allegedly linked with several other groups that claimed responsibility for killing four atheist bloggers this year.
It threatens to kill more atheist bloggers, naming six in Bangladesh and nine others living abroad to be targeted as soon as they returned to the South Asian country. It said the list of 15 names is not final, warning that anyone who attempts to degrade Islam would face serious consequences and anyone supporting the atheist bloggers will not "be spared."
Authorities said they are taking the threat seriously and are investigating. "Higher authorities have been informed," Dhaka police spokesman Muntasirul Islam told reporters.
The email, received Monday by many Bangladeshi media outlets but not the AP, has renewed concerns about radical forces within Bangladesh.
Since late September, two foreigners — an Italian aid worker and a Japanese agricultural worker — have been gunned down in daylight attacks. Responsibility for both attacks was claimed by the Sunni radical group ISIS, but the Bangladesh government rejected those claims along with any suggestion that ISIS was active in the country.
The email was signed with the name Abdullah bin Salim, who said he is an Ansarullah spokesman. Authorities determined it had been sent from a computer in the southeastern district of Chittagong, according to local media that received the email including online news service bdnews24.com and the Dhaka Tribune newspaper. Ansarullah also allegedly has ties with al-Qaida's branch in South Asia, launched last year in India.
"Our directives will be the law for you from today," the email says, according to Bangladeshi news service bdnews24.com. "The consequences will be severe if you do not walk the path of Islam. Towering buildings will crumble to the ground, your heads will roll at the feet of the soldiers of Islam."
It warns the media, "If your freedom of expression breaks the limit we have set, every news media unit should be prepared to face (the consequences) of our freedom to vent our anger," according to bdnews24.com.
It also says anyone working for a media organization that publishes reports condemning the "jihadis" for attacks "will be considered to be abettors of atheists and atheism, and they would be fully uprooted."