COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh - Fighting between rival Rohingya insurgent groups killed one person and left hundreds of makeshift refugee shelters razed on Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar, police and eyewitnesses said on Thursday.
Wednesday’s clashes were the first known public exchanges between opposing armed factions from the stateless minority, nearly a million of whom live in sprawling Bangladeshi refugee camps having fled Myanmar.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), one of the groups involved in the confrontation, has been accused of drug trafficking and murdering refugee leaders who oppose its operations.
Rohingya sources said hundreds of militants from the lesser-known Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) launched a pre-dawn attack on an ARSA staging post in the no man’s land area on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
At least one person was killed, a medical worker from a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) clinic told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Three others were treated for gunshot wounds at the clinic, including a child injured when a bullet grazed their hand, they added.
Mr Dil Mohammad, a leader at the makeshift refugee camp where the violence unfolded, said most of the settlement’s shelters had been burned down in the assault.
“Eighty per cent of the houses, numbering in the hundreds, were burned. Many have taken refuge in Myanmar and many have taken refuge in Bangladesh,” he said.
Mr Mohammad claimed Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion police unit had facilitated the RSO’s attack, after the killing of an officer there several months ago.
He added that soldiers in Myanmar had fired into the air to stop fleeing Rohingya from entering their territory.
A top ARSA leader who fought in Wednesday’s clashes also told AFP that Bangladeshi security forces took part in the RSO attack.
“They burned hundreds of Rohingya houses using heavy weapons,” they said.
District government administrator Romen Sharma denied that Bangladesh security forces had been involved.
“This incident happened at the international border of Bangladesh and Myanmar. We have no jurisdiction,” he told AFP.
Bangladesh’s police and border force could not be reached for comment by AFP, while a spokesperson for Myanmar’s military junta did not respond to a request for comment.
A series of ARSA attacks against Myanmar security posts in 2017 prompted a brutal crackdown by the military that forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
The abuses committed during that crackdown are now the subject of a UN genocide investigation. AFP