Bangladeshi authorities opened an investigation Thursday into the alleged abduction of a Christian Rohingya family after two groups of refugees filed police complaints accusing each other of launching attacks that wounded at least 12 people.
An alleged attack on Jan. 27 by machete-wielding Muslim Rohingya men on a Christian community at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar district led to the temporary relocation of at least 17 Christian Rohingya families to a U.N. shelter.
“Christian Rohingya people filed a case about the disappearance of a Christian family after the attack. We have been investigating the allegations,” Samir Chandra Sarker, an inspector at the Kutupalong police station, told BenarNews on Thursday.
Mohammad Abul Mansur, officer-in-charge of the police for the Ukhia sub-district, said members of the Christian Rohingya community had lodged a case against 59 Muslim men, accusing their fellow refugees of perpetrating the attack.
He said a group of Muslims also filed a separate complaint late Wednesday, alleging that the violence was an offshoot of a purported incident in which a group of Christians assaulted a Rohingya Muslim man.
But one of the alleged victims, Saiful Islam Peter, a Christian Rohingya, told BenarNews that members of the militant group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) were behind the attack.
Police, however, dismissed his claims, saying that only four Christians and one Muslim were wounded and that the violence was the result of an “ordinary law-and-order incident.”
Peter said the attackers had destroyed the victims’ homes and stolen their ration cards, computers and documents.
Police earlier said they were unaware of the alleged abduction of a Christian family.
“We have been trying to arrest the people accused by both sides,” Mansur said.
ARSA, an armed insurgent group, carried out attacks on police and army posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017.
In response to those attacks, Myanmar’s security forces launched a brutal crackdown that forced 740,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes and cross into neighboring Bangladesh.
Police unaware of alleged abduction
Laila Begum, 45, lodged the case against 13 Christians, while a 38-year-old man named Si Thwe filed a complaint on behalf of the Christians, police told BenarNews.
Begum told BenarNews that she filed the case because her son, Shukkur, was not involved in the attack against the Christians but was himself a victim.
“I want justice for the attack on him. I demand the arrest of the attackers,” she said.
Police said violence erupted after a Christian Rohingya man beat up a Rohingya Muslim whose angry relatives retaliated by attacking Christians.
But Peter, the Christian man, alleged that Begum’s son was an ARSA member.
“It was ARSA that carried out the attack. Shukkur is one of the ARSA members who attacked us,” Peter said. “We caught him during the attack and handed him over to the police.”
Mansur, the police officer-in-charge, shrugged off claims that the Christians had handed over any attacker. He also said there were no militants involved in the attack.
“There is no ARSA in Bangladesh,” he said.
Si Thwe, who filed the case against the Muslim Rohingya, told BenarNews that police had assured him that they were pursuing the suspects.
“But the Christians have been in constant fear,” he said.
Two Christian women interviewed by BenarNews confirmed that they had been receiving telephoned death threats from unidentified men.
“We have been in fear,” said Nuru Fakir, a Christian who was relocated to the UNHCR camp after the attack. “Four more Christian families Wednesday night took refuge at the transit camp,” she said.
In an email sent to Radio Free Asia, an online news service affiliated with BenarNews, a Christian group identified the missing family members as Taher, Khurshida, Mizan and Mariam.
The group alleged that the abductors wore face masks.
“The hallmark of an ARSA attack is the attackers cover their faces while abducting and killing,” said Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of Bangladesh’s minority association known as Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Oikya Parishad.
Government agencies are expected to discuss the attack against the Christian refugees on Sunday, Khalilur Rahman, a deputy secretary at the refugee relief and repatriation commissioner’s office, told BenarNews.
Mostafa Mohammad Sazzad Hossain, UNHCR’s local spokesman, told BenarNews that the U.N. refugee agency was aware of the attack.
“We are working actively with our government counterparts and community leaders to ensure that all refugees in the camps are able to live together in peace and security,” he said.