An attack was carried out in the early hours of Friday, around 3:30am, on the mosque and madrasah of the Thainkhali camp (camp 18) in Ukhiya, killing six Rohingyas. Rohingya leaders (‘majhi’) of various camps in Ukhiya say that around 250 ARSA supporters took part in this brutal killing.

Law enforcement sources say that there are at least 300 madrasahs in the Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf at Cox’s Bazar. There is conflict between ARSA-affiliated Ulema Council and another Rohingya organisation Islami Mahas, over control of these madrasahs. The Rohingya leaders or ‘majhis’ say that Islami Mahas has taken a stand against the unethical activities of ARSA and has also been mobilising Rohingyas in favour of repatriation. The two groups are also in conflict over controlling the yaba business and extortion and well as gaining dominance.

After the killing of Mohib Ullah on 29 September, over 100 criminals have been arrested and 52 weapons recovered in drives by the law enforcement. Of the arrested Rohingyas, 15 are active ARSA members, according to the majhis. They say that after Muhib Ullah’s killing, ARSA wants to make their presence felt through such killings.

Speaking to Prothom Alo about the recent unrest in the Rohingya camps, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen has said that the miscreants who have been involved in these recent incidents are from among the Rohingyas. They are involved in all sorts of unethical activities and embroiled in clashes among themselves in a bid for power and this is leading to unfortunate incidents.

Referring to the killing of the six Rohingyas hardly a month after the Muhib Ullah killing, he said, “We will never want any untoward incident on our territory. The recent Mohib Ullah killing has been discussed and criticised at home and abroad. We stepped up security there considerably after the incident. Those involved in Mohib Ullah’s killing have been identified and detained. Amid this, the unfortunate killing of six Rohingyas took place. This is disconcerting for us.”

According to officials of the home ministry and the foreign ministry, a meeting was held on Thursday with home minister Asaduzzaman Khan presiding, to discuss the law and order situation in the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar. It was decided to increase deployment and strength there, placing the Armed Police Battalion in charge of coordination. After this meeting, the local administration in Cox’s Bazar was given directives to strengthen coordination and step up law and order in the camps.

Reasons behind the attacks

Of the 300 madrasahs in the Rohingya camps, over 170 are controlled by the ARSA affiliate Ulema Council. Islami Mahas controls the rest. However, Ulema Council is trying to gain control over these too. They have issued several threats to the leaders of Mahas. Rohingya leaders say the main reason behind the killings on Friday was the struggle between the two sides for control on the madrasahs.

Sources in the Ukhiya camp say that Islami Mahas leader Moulvi Selim Ullah lives in Block C of Camp 13 in Balukhali, Ukhiya. He used to be an ARSA commander once, but left the group when it became involved in anti-repatriation activities, extortion, narcotics and gold smuggling, abduction, rape and other criminal activities. He later formed Islami Mahas. Under the leadership of Moulvi Selim, Islami Mahas leaders would mobilise the general Rohingyas in support of repatriation. In their meetings and sermons, they would warn them against the activities of ARSA. This infuriated ARSA.

The recent killings have made the ARSA presence in Rohingya camps clear. When they took up shelter at zero point after carrying out the killings, it is obvious that they are not forces in favour of the Rohingyas. They are supporters of the Myanmar army. This incident has also made it clear that the situation in the camps goes out of control at night. Bangladesh must ensure round-the-clock security at the camps
Md Touhid Hossain, former foreign secretary

Rohingya leaders say that at least 15 active ARSA leaders involved in the killing of Mohib Ullah, have been caught. This has enraged ARSA against Islami Mahas further. They feel that Islami Mahas leaders provided the police with information on ARSA activities. Yet the police have repeatedly been saying that there are no organisations in the camps by the name of ARSA or al-Yaqin. They say it is the criminals among the Rohingyas who use the name of ARSA and al-Yaqin to carry out their criminal activities.

The Rohingyas say that money comes by various means into the camp in the name of the mosques and madrasahs. The two organisations are in conflict over sharing these funds too. Also, ARSA has also grabbed a share of the yaba and gold business in the camps. The Rohingyas have at least 14,000 shops in the camp and ARSA collects protection money from them.

Operations continue

Moulvi Akiz alias Moulvi Oli of the Balukhali camp (camp 18) in Ukhiya, has been made the main accused in the case pertaining to the killing of the six Rohingyas. He is known to be an ARSA commander. It is alleged that he led one of the attacks that took place on Friday morning. A few Rohingya majhis claim that he entered the mosque with 22 to 25 persons and opened fire.

A number of Rohingya leaders in the Ukhiya camp, on condition of anonymity, said around 20 to 25 persons, including Nurul Kalim, Moulvi Dildar and others have crossed the Naf river and taken shelter in no man’s land.

Presently 1.1 million (11 lakh) Rohingyas live in Ukhiya and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar. There had been four camps set up, two each in Kutupalong of Ukhiya and Hnila of Tekaf, for the Rohingyas who had arrived in 1991 from Rakhine. Then with the large influx of Rohingyas on 25 August 2017, another 6 camps were set up in Teknaf and 24 in Ukhiya.

Former foreign secretary Md Touhid Hossain, speaking to Prothom Alo, said the recent killings have made the ARSA presence in Rohingya camps clear. When they took up shelter at zero point after carrying out the killings, it is obvious that they are not forces in favour of the Rohingyas. They are supporters of the Myanmar army. This incident has also made it clear that the situation in the camps goes out of control at night. Bangladesh must ensure round-the-clock security at the camps, no matter how difficult it may be. Local criminals have also become involved with ARSA. Unless this ring is broken, the security condition in Cox’s Bazar will deteriorate further in the future. It is essential to increase intelligence activities to bring the situation under control.

* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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