COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh - Elite Bangladeshi police have launched a crackdown against suspected criminals and insurgents after a rise in attacks on Rohingya community leaders in refugee camps, officers said Sunday.
The Armed Police Battalion, tasked with security in 34 refugees camps which are home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees, said they have arrested at least 56 Rohingyas since Friday night.
Some 740,000 Rohingya fled a military offensive in Myanmar in 2017 and took refuge with more than 200,000 Rohingyas already in camps in Bangladesh’s south-eastern Cox’s Bazar resort district.
Police said security in the camps had deteriorated sharply in recent months with at least 15 Rohingyas – more than half of them camp leaders – hacked to death or shot by rivals.
“We have launched ‘Operation Root Out’ on Friday and already we have arrested 56 Rohingya including 24 people involved in the murder of seven majhis (Rohingya community leaders) this month,” APBN spokesman Farouk Ahmed told AFP.
“They are terrorists. We will continue the drive and eliminate the terrorists who are disrupting security and peace in the camps,” he said.
Bangladesh security forces regular refer to insurgent groups active in the camps as terrorists.
A top police officer said the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA), an insurgent group fighting Myanmar’s army in the country’s restive western state of Rakhine, was behind most of the killings.
“They are responsible for the murders of seven majhis in the camp,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Due to the ongoing conflict in Myanmar, ARSA men have entered the camps and are creating chaos there as it could not survive in Myanmar. They kill their rivals who oppose their terrorist activities,” he said.
Cox’s Bazar district police chief Mahfuzul Islam at least 20 Rohingyas were murdered in the camps this year and 120 people were charged with the killings.
Apart from ARSA, police said rival insurgent groups such as the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) and Islami Mahad also operated in the camps. Some of the Rohingyas killed in recent months were members of Islami Mahad, a police officer said.
In September 2021, suspected ARSA men killed top Rohingya rights group leader Mohib Ullah in front of his office. ARSA was also blamed for murder of six teachers and students at an Islamic seminary controlled by Islami Mahad last October. AFP