COX’S BAZAR: A mob of a dozen people hacked to death two Rohingya community leaders in Bangladesh, police said Sunday, as security worsens in camps housing almost a million refugees.
Bangladesh has been housing Rohingya refugees in a vast sprawl of camps since they fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017 that is now the subject of a genocide investigation at the UN’s top court.
The squalid settlements have seen escalating violence in recent months, with gangs trying to assert control over drug trafficking and intimidate the refugees’ civilian leadership through killings and abductions.
Police spokesman Faruk Ahmed said two Rohingya camp leaders were killed late on Saturday at Camp 13, calling it one of the worst attacks in recent months.
“More than a dozen Rohingya miscreants hacked Maulvi Mohammad Yunus, 38, who is the head majhi of Camp 13. They also killed Mohammad Anwar, 38, another majhi. Yunus died on the spot and Amwar died at a hospital,” he said.
“Majhi” is a term for a Rohingya camp leader.
A senior officer of an elite police unit tasked with security in the camps blamed the killings on the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an insurgent group fighting the military in Myanmar.
“These are targeted killings by ARSA. The internal clashes in Myanmar are impacting the security situation in the camps,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.
Gangs have long fought turf wars for control of the drug trade, centered on yaba methamphetamine pills, but the police chief of the Bangladeshi district of Cox’s Bazar said there was an escalation taking place.
“In the last three months alone, at least 14 Rohingyas were murdered in the camps. The number of murders in the camp has increased compared to last year,” Mahfuzul Islam told AFP.
A Rohingya community leader and a nephew of one of those killed on Saturday also blamed ARSA for the murders.
“ARSA killed my uncle last night. My uncle used to tell them not to deal in drugs. He would supervise voluntarily patrolling in the camps. They killed my uncle,” the nephew said, asking to remain anonymous out of fears for his safety.
ARSA has not publicly commented on Saturday’s killings.
Several of its members earlier this year were charged over the murder of top Rohingya leader Mohib Ullah in September last year. ARSA has denied its involvement.
The killing of Ullah, who had been received at the White House by then-president Donald Trump, sparked a major crackdown by Bangladeshi authorities, with at least 8,000 suspected ARSA members arrested.