Police, local public representatives and persons responsible for border security said there had been a fierce battle between Myanmar security forces and pro-independent rebel armed group Arakan Army (AA) for the past 23 days until Saturday, 3 September. The Myanmar government forces fired shots, mortar shells and bombs at the target of Arakan Army, but the shelling stopped on Sunday morning.

No sound of firing was heard from the Myanmar side of the border nor were any fighter jets or helicopters seen in the sky on Monday. The sound of firing started from Tuesday morning, spreading panic among Rohingyas living at refugee camps on the zero line.

Mortar shells fired from BGP check post

The territory between Konarpara of Tombru Bazar under Ghundhum union parishad and Myanmar’s Walidong and Kha Maung Seik hills is no mans’ land and more than 4,200 people of 621 Rohingya families have been living there for five years after they were driven out from Rakhine state.

Barbed wire fence has been erected on the border along the camps and south of the fence is a hill range, with several check posts of Myanmar’s Border Guard Police (BGP) being set on top of the hills. These check posts can be seen clearly from Tombru Bazar.

Dil Mohammad is the chairman of the managing committee of the refugee camp. He told Prothom Alo firing began again at 7:00 on Tuesday. Artillery and mortar shells are being fired intermittently from BGP check posts to Kha Maung Seik hill, with 20 to 25 shells being thrown until 11:00am. The soundsof blasts shook the ground of the Rohingya camp, with continuous shooting. Refugees are in fear as bullets and bombs flew over their head, and there may be causalities if any artillery or mortar shell lands on the camp.

Several refugees also said rain occurred from Monday morning to the afternoon. Myanmar’s security force members in uniform were seen gathering and weapons being stocked at several check posts.

Security force members were also seen standing near the barbed wire fence in the afternoon. Several groups of BGP members were also seen taking position near the fence around 9:00am, with several teams of five to seven patrolling on hill roads. Several members of BGP were even seen talking to Rohingya children near the fence.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Ghumdhum union parishad (UP) chairman AKM Jahagir Aziz said panic spread this side of the border following the firing on the Myanmar side after two days. Sounds of mortar shell blasts came from Walindong hill around 7:30am. Myanmar army have reportedly engaged in fierce battle with Arakan Army in Walindong hill, east of Kha Mong Seik hill, but no shell fired from Myanmar landed in the Bangladesh territory until 11:00am. No one is being allowed to go to the border and the Border Guard Bangladesh remains on alert, he added.

Jahagir Aziz further said about 800,000 Rohingyas were forced to flee to Bangladesh to escape the persecution of Myanmar military in the Rakhine state five years ago. Now a conspiracy is on to drive the remaining Rohingyas to Bangladesh, he observed.

Police and local public representatives said Bangladesh summoned the Myanmar ambassador to Dhaka and reiterated deep concern over falling mortar shells inside its territory, indiscriminate aerial firing from Myanmar in the bordering areas, and air space violations from the neighbouring country. Myanmar was also warned not to repeat such assualt.

Regarding this, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said, “We have strengthened our position and we fear more people facing persecution may try to enter our country. Our border and security forces have been put on alert so that no one can enter our territory.”

This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna