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Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)
Faith Movement / Harakah al-Yaqin

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), is a group previously known as the Faith Movement, or Harakah al-Yaqin in Arabic. For years, the Burmese army faced little resistance as it destroyed Rohingya villages and pushed Rohingyas from Burma into Bangladesh. However, this lack of organized resistance began changing in mid-2016.

Negotiations are taking place about the Rohingya issue in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to pressure Burma to change its policies towards the Rohingya. Malaysian leaders have argued that the issue is no longer an internal affair for Burma because the flow of refugees is having an impact on other countries in the region. Moreover, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has argued that if the Rohingya crisis is not contained, it could allow the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to infiltrate and radicalize the Rohingya, which would also pose a problem for the region.

The militants started attacking remote border posts of the army to steal arms. Despite rumors that the movement receives funding from and training in the Gulf region, the commanders said they are self-reliant. Nonetheless, they claim to be trained by a leader with experience in guerilla warfare, presumably from outside Burma. In one of the early attacks, the commander says villagers provided them with food and shelter and even joined in the fighting. If true, this suggests that the movement maintains a sizeable level of popular support within the Rohingya communities along the Burma-Bangladesh border.

The now-in-hiding Harakah al-Yaqin fighters are practicing extreme caution when speaking with any outsider. They hide amid a forest in the no mans land between Bangladesh and Myanmar. They claim that Harakah al-Yaqin was not a terrorist group.

Harakah al-Yaqin was, in fact, responsible for the series of attacks on Myanmar Border Guard Police outposts along Bangladesh-Myanmar border on October 9. Our aim was to loot their arms and ammunition for our guerrilla training, a spokesman said. He said they were trained by Ata Ullah and some other senior leaders of Harakah al-Yaqin who are trained in modern guerrilla war tactics. In the four months before the attacks, Ata Ullah and his men also tried to convince local villagers to support their movement. All the arms and ammunition gave them a stronger footing in Rakhine, but in two weeks according to the leader they took a hit when the Myanmar Army launched the crackdown on Rohingyas.

The attacks on border guard police outposts in Rakhine on October 9 resulted in escalated violence between the GoB and armed actors throughout northern Rakhine, most severely affecting Maungdaw Township. The conflictthe worst in the state since 2012had displaced 65,000 people, the majority of whom identify as Rohingya Muslims, to neighboring Bangladesh as of January 5, according to the UN. Following the October violence in Rakhine, the GoB immediately suspended humanitarian operations in affected areas. While some relief agencies resumed services in parts of northern Rakhine in late November 2016, most humanitarian activity remained suspended.

On 15 December 2016, the International Crisis Group (ICG) released a report on the violence in Rakhine, stating that the attacks on the border guards in October and on a senior GoB army official on November 12, as well as the violence following the incidents and related security operations, signify the emergence of a new insurgency in Burma. The perpetrators of the attacks identify as Rohingya Muslims and refer to themselves as Harakah al-Yaqin.

IED activity in July 2017 reached the highest level since January, with the majority of events occurring in the two states of Rakhine and Kachin. In Rakhine, authorities have not named the specific militant group involved in the July events, but indications from Junes raid in the Mayu Mountains point to increasing activity by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in the Maungtaw and Buthidaung areas.

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Page last modified: 08-09-2017 18:24:45 ZULU