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Radio Free Asia

Bangladesh police crack down on criminals inside Rohingya camps

Authorities said concerns over lawlessness linked to armed groups coming from Myanmar led to 60 arrests.

Ahammad Foyez and Sunil Barua for BenarNews 2022.10.31 -- Bangladesh police captured dozens of suspects after launching a crackdown in Cox's Bazar refugee camps this weekend against armed criminal groups linked to a wave of killings targeting Rohingya, officials said Monday.

Lawlessness by armed Rohingya groups has increased in the sprawling camps amid recent unrest across the border in Myanmar's Rakhine state, law enforcers and refugee community leaders said, with one police official even saying that Rohingya militants were using the camps as a safe haven.

At least five dozen suspects - all of them Rohingya - have been arrested since authorities began "Operation Root Out" on Friday, an official with the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) confirmed to BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

The police launched the operation in response to killings of Rohingya that have struck fear among many in the refugee community of about 1 million, claiming at least 40 Rohingya lives since the start of 2022, according to police records.

"Fights have been going on between the junta army and a group for about 2½ months in Myanmar near the border with Bangladesh. For this reason, some Rohingya terrorists from the neighboring country have entered into Bangladesh and taken refuge in the refugee camps where they created unrest," Md. Faruk Ahmed, a battalion assistant superintendent, told BenarNews.

"A total of 60 criminals have been arrested in two rounds of the drive," he said.

Ahmed said 41 suspects were arrested on Saturday and 19 more Sunday night into Monday, adding that police would continue to arrest suspects.

"Out of the 19 people arrested in the operation, 12 are accused of robbery and seven are accused in other cases," Faruk said.

Alleged members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya insurgent group, have been observed targeting night watch security volunteers and community leaders in recent attacks at the camps.

Nine Rohingya, including a child, have been killed in suspected ARSA attacks this month alone, according to police and camp leaders.

Panic in camps

Rohingya, especially the camp leaders who have been pushing for repatriation to their home villages in Myanmar, said the recent attacks have terrorized the refugee population.

"I can't explain to you what kind of fear I am in right now. There are three to four Majhis (Rohingya community leaders) here who enter the police camp every day after Asr prayers and leave in the morning. This is how our days are going," said a Majhis in camp No. 9 in Balukhali who asked to remain anonymous over security concerns.

"Now not only ARSA, but some other groups including the Nabi Hossain Group, Munna Group and RSO [the Rohingya Solidarity Organization] are active in the camps. They are the ones who are causing the killings," he said.

Another Rohingya leader blamed ARSA for killings and other crime in the camps.

"Although there are several groups in the Rohingya camps, ARSA is responsible for these crimes aimed at establishing absolute dominance in the camps," Master Shafi Ullah, 50, a leader of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights in the Balukhali Camp, told BenarNews.

He said the ARSA members oppose Rohingya returning to Myanmar, so they are attacking and, in some cases, killing those who are pushing for repatriation.

"Everybody is afraid of what danger could befall them," he said.

Myanmar apologizes

Meanwhile on Sunday, Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) officials expressed regret about recent firing along the border of Bangladesh, a Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) official said after a five-hour meeting in Teknaf, a sub-district of Cox's Bazar.

BGB regional commanding officer Lt. Col. Sheikh Khalid Muhammad Iftekhar said the Myanmar officials promised that the shelling would stop. Col. Cao Na Yan Show led the seven-member Myanmar delegation.

"We agreed to help each other in any need. We have also decided to work together to protect the bordering people on both sides," he said.

Massive gunfire and shelling erupted along the border between Myanmar troops and members of the Arakan Army, another insurgent group in Rakhine state.

On Aug. 28, two shells fired by Myanmar landed in Bangladesh territory, leading officials in Dhaka to file a strong protest and summon the Myanmar ambassador.

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service.

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