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Bangladeshi Rohingya refugee camp in fear of militant killings

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Bangladeshi Rohingya refugee camp in fear of militant killings
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Image Credit: UNHCR (2018)

Following the murder of Rohingya activist Mohib Ullah by unidentified gunmen in the Bangladeshi refugee camp at Kutupalong, other activists have begun receiving anonymous calls threatening their own lives. The Rohingya activists believe that the killings are being carried out by the Arakan Rohingyan Salvation Army (ARSA) which refugees say runs drugs and carries out turf wars in the 850,000 strong camp, an AFP report claimed.

The camp has been operational since 2017 where the Rohingyas were driven out by Buddhists in Myanmar who see them as reviled immigrants. Many of them refuse to go back until assured of security and equal rights. By day, the camps are patrolled by Bangladeshi security officers but by night ARSA had free reign, the frightened refugees claimed.

Three weeks after Ullah's murder, gunmen killed seven in an Islamic seminary in the camp after leaders refused to pay money to gangs allegedly linked to ARSA. Ullah and his team were involved in documenting violence and crime that were rife in the camp as well as their suffering in exile. He shot to popularity after organising a protest to mark the two-year anniversary of the Rohingya exodus, even meeting American President Donald Trump that year. It was his meteoric rise in esteem amongst people that alarmed ARSA and led to his murder, colleagues and rights activists say. The militants often targeted, threatened and killed those who opposed their violent methods they added.

"The brutal carnage bore all the marks of ARSA. The group previously slaughtered at least two top Islamic clerics because they didn't back ARSA's violent struggle," said a top expatriate Rohingya activist to AFP under condition of anonymity. "ARSA has carried out the murders to establish its full control in the camps. After the latest carnage, everyone seems to be silenced."

Refugee activists also claim that the Bangladeshi security forces are in cahoots with ARSA which Bangladesh has strongly denied. Although dozens have been arrested in connection with Ullah's killing, the Bangladeshi army says ARSA is not to blame as it has a negligible presence in the camps, pointing the finger instead at rivalries between gangs whose turf wars prompted the army to erect barbed wire fences in the camps in 2019.

Ullah's family as well as several others have been relocated following the threats. It is also claimed by his colleagues that Ullah had sent a letter with the names of 70 men in the camp who he believed were members of ARSA. Bangladesh's refugee commissioner Shah Rezwan Hayat and camp-in-charge Atiqul Mamun denied receiving any such letter.

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TAGS:Rohingya refugees militants Killings Human rights Rohingya refugees Crisis Bangladesh refugee camp 
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