Bangladesh Police Suspect Link in Killings of Rohingya Leader, 6 Other Refugees

Ahammad Foyez and Abdur Rahman
Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
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Bangladesh Police Suspect Link in Killings of Rohingya Leader, 6 Other Refugees Relatives and fellow refugees prepare to bury the wrapped bodies of slain Rohingya in a graveyard at the Balukhali camp in Ukhia, Bangladesh, Oct. 23, 2021.
Abdur Rahman/BenarNews

Police suspect that the people who killed a Rohingya leader and six refugees in separate attacks at camps in southeastern Bangladesh belong to the same group, authorities said Monday but declined to name it, although victims’ relatives blamed Rohingya rebels.

So far, police have arrested 19 suspects – nine in connection with the Sept. 29 killing of Muhib Ullah, who was an internationally known activist, and 10 connected to the killing last week of six refugees at an Islamic boarding school in Cox’s Bazar district, officials said.

“We suspect that the same group of people conducted the separate killing missions,” Rafiqul Islam, the additional superintendent of police in Cox’s Bazar, told BenarNews. “We already collected the names, addresses and other details of most attackers.

“Sharing the details about the group is not possible at this stage as we are investigating two cases in this regard separately,” he said.

Investigators suspect that “both killing missions might be conducted by the same group of people,” Naimul Haque, commanding officer of the Armed Police Battalion Unit-14, told a news conference Saturday.

An eyewitness to Friday’s pre-dawn attack had said that about 100 masked men, who were armed with machetes, sticks and guns, carried out the killings at the madrassa in the Balukhali camp. Some of those who were slain had volunteered to help police patrol the camp at night and were sleeping at the Islamic school when the armed intruders burst in and killed them.

It was the deadliest incident of violence at the sprawling Rohingya camps near the Myanmar border in Cox’s Bazar in recent memory.

A few weeks earlier, at the Kutupalong camp, a group of gunmen burst into the office of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), which Ullah headed, and shot him dead.    

Since Ullah’s killing, police have arrested nearly 86 refugees, including many suspected of involvement with illegal weapons and drugs, Haque said.

“We have tightened security in the refugee camps since the murder of Muhib Ullah. Police are patrolling there regularly. But, amid the strict security, a group carried out a killing mission at the madrassa,” Md Hasanuzzaman, superintendent of police for Cox’s Bazar district, told BenarNews, describing the incident on Oct. 22 as an isolated one.

Rafiqul Islam, meanwhile, said that the density of the camps played a factor in the suspects’ ability to pull off the attack.

“The killers were successful in carrying out their killing mission because of the congested area inside the refugee camps,” he said. “We are working to bring the killers to trial. No criminal will be able to flee after doing any crime in the refugee camps.”

More than 40,000 refugees are crammed into each square kilometer at the camps in the southeast – more than 40 times the average density of Bangladesh’s population, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.

About 1 million Rohingya live in the camps in and around Cox’s Bazar. These include 740,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh after the Burmese military launched a brutal offensive in retaliation for deadly raids by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on government outposts in Rakhine state in August 2017.

Ullah’s brother as well as relatives of the six people killed last week have blamed ARSA for the fatal attacks, but police have denied allegations that the group has a foothold in Bangladesh.

ARSA, on its official Twitter account, denied responsibility and blamed what it called “ARSA 2.0,” a “criminal gang that is responsible for many crimes in refugee camps & beyond.”

On Saturday, police alleged that 19 people participated in the killing of Ullah, who had represented his community in international meetings, including at the United Nations and the White House.

Officers also arrested four suspects that day, including one who confessed to the killing, officials said. The confession is the second by a suspect in the crime.

2-minute attack

Haque released details about the attack based on the ongoing investigation.

“A five-member killer group took just two minutes to assassinate popular Rohingya leader Muhib Ullah at his ARSPH office on Sept. 29,” he said.

The suspects allegedly held a planning meeting two days before Ullah was shot four times, Haque said, adding that they allegedly targeted him because he became an important figure through his efforts to return the Rohingya to their homes across the border in Myanmar.

Meanwhile, the father of one of the six people killed at the madrassa filed a case Saturday night with the Ukhia Police Station against 25 named and 250 unnamed people.

Ten people have been arrested and linked to the case filed by Nurul Islam, whose son, Azizul Haque, was killed, Ahmed Sanjur Morshed, the chief of the Ukhia police, told BenarNews.


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