Bangladesh Boosts Security on Myanmar Border After Deadly Attacks Along Frontier

Special to BenarNews

2016-10-10
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161010-BU-BD-border-guards-620.jpg Myanmar soldiers walk from a helicopter that took them to Maungdaw in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state to track down attackers who staged deadly raids on border posts, Oct. 10, 2016.
AFP

Bangladesh officials said Monday it had beefed up security along its southern border following an outbreak of violence in neighboring Myanmar that left nine Burmese border guards and eight alleged attackers dead a day earlier.

Unknown assailants on Sunday attacked three border guard posts in the Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships, which lie in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state just across the border from Bangladesh, killing nine Burmese border guards, wounding five more and leaving one missing, according to Myanmar national police chief Zaw Win. Eight attackers were killed, and two were captured on Sunday, he said.

“Regarding the incidents, the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) force boosted security measures in the border areas to prevent the entry of terrorists,” BGB Director General Maj. Gen. Aziz Ahmed told BenarNews on Monday.

“We could hear the sound of firing from Bangladesh territory,” Lt. Col. Abu Jar Al Zahid, a Teknaf region unit commander of the BGB, a paramilitary force under the Bangladeshi Ministry of Home Affairs, told BenarNews. “Before the Myanmar border police informed us, we deployed our troops along the border so that the miscreants could not enter Bangladesh.”

Meanwhile, at least four Muslims died Monday when government army and police forces conducted house-to-house searches for weapons in the Maungdaw, Myanmar, following Sunday’s deadly attack, according to residents.

Monday’s deadly clashes occurred while police and soldiers were searching a Muslim quarter of the border town following Sunday’s bloody attack, residents told the Myanmar service of Radio Free Asia (RFA), a sister entity of BenarNews.

The bodies of the four who died on Monday were taken to a hospital in Maungdaw, they said.

RFA could not reach the town’s administrative offices to confirm the deaths.

“We have many soldiers in the town,” said Maung Maung Ohn, the former chief minister of Rakhine state who is a lawmaker in the state legislature and a resident of Maungdaw. “The Maungdaw market is closed, and all Muslim shops are closed. There are almost no people on the streets.”

In the violence targeting the border posts, the assailants seized 51 weapons and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition in the initial attack, Zaw Win said Sunday during a press conference in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar.

‘On the run’

Tin Maung Swe, secretary of the Rakhine state government, told the online journal The Irrawaddy that the captured pair confessed to planning the attacks for more than three months with the help of local Muslims in Maungdaw, where the majority self-identify as Rohingya.

Another 240 people involved in the attacks remain “on the run,” he said.

Authorities in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships have extended an existing curfew from 11 p.m.-4 a.m. to 7 p.m.-6 a.m. and prohibited groups of more than five people from gathering, The Irrawaddy reported.

All of the roughly 400 government-run schools in Maungdaw district, which comprises Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, were closed on Monday until further notice, said Aung Kyaw Tun, director of the Education Department in Rakhine state.

“We closed all schools in the townships and sent teachers to safe places,” he said. “These insurgents put landmines in the area, and we will bring the teachers back only after these landmines are cleared.”

Soldiers have been deployed in the area, and some streets have been closed off as both soldiers and police search Muslim villages for the weapons taken during the first border guard post attack, he said.

State government spokesman Min Aung told The Irrawaddy that a police report alleges that local Muslims involved in the attack had links to the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), a small militant group active in the 1980s and the 1990s until the Myanmar government launched a counteroffensive to expel its insurgents from the border area with Bangladesh.

Since then, the group has been believed to be defunct.

Bangladesh connection

Zahid, the Bangladeshi border guard commander in Teknaf, said that his forces had no evidence that people from Bangladesh had crossed into Myanmar to carry out Sunday’s attacks.

But local authorities in Myanmar told BGB officers based in the Bangladeshi city of Chittagong that a terrorist group, including members of the RSO, had killed several border guard police along the frontier, said BGB chief Aziz Ahmed.

“We clearly said that there are no RSO or other extremist groups of Myanmar in Bangladesh,” he told Benar, adding that the BGB had in the past handed over to Myanmar authorities suspected Myanmar rebels who were caught in Bangladeshi territory.

A senior officer in Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs who requested anonymity told BenarNews that the ministry was confident that the attack did not involve anyone who had crossed the border into Myanmar.

Religious and ethnic tensions run high in Rakhine where 1.1 million stateless Rohingya suffer persecution because they are considered illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

Communal violence with Rakhine Buddhists in 2012 left 200 people dead and forced others into squalid internally displaced persons camps where they are denied basic rights, including that of citizenship.

The deaths of the four Muslims in Maungdaw on Monday came nearly seven weeks after State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto national leader, formed a Rakhine advisory commission led by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan to review conflict resolution between Buddhists and Rohingya, humanitarian assistance, and development issues in the impoverished and divided state.

Rakhine Buddhists and the Arakan National Party (ANP), which represents the interests of the Buddhist-majority Rakhine people, oppose the commission and have called for its disbandment.

Kamran Reza Chowdhury and Jesmin Papri in Dhaka contributed to this story.

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