Bangladesh’s elite anti-terrorism unit is conducting search operations in Rohingya camps on its southeastern border after two refugees from Myanmar were arrested with guns and live ammunition over the weekend, a Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) official said.
The raids in Kutupalong camp and adjoining areas in Cox’s Bazar district, where a majority of Rohingya are sheltered, began on Saturday and likely will continue through the week, RAB Maj. Ruhul Amin told BenarNews.
Police said some Rohingya refugees armed with sharp-edged weapons injured four Bangladeshis who were repairing a well near the Balukhali camp early Saturday.
“We also heard a gunshot,” Amin said.
Two suspects – Elias, 25, and Noor Basar, 26 – were arrested in connection with the assault a few hours later, he said, adding they had homemade guns and ammunition.
“During interrogation we got some links and started sending out our teams to conduct raids at the refugee camps,” Amin said.
The RAB has information that some refugees are hiding weapons in the camps where more than 607,000 Rohingya have taken shelter since a fresh wave of violence broke out in August against the predominantly Muslim community in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, he said. Both suspects were among the group of fresh arrivals from Myanmar.
“We haven’t recovered more weapons yet,” he said. “This is a very difficult operation considering the camps are extremely vast and over-populated. It is a very big challenge for us,” Amin said.
Amin said the two suspects likely are not members of Arakan Rohingya Salavation Army (ARSA), a rebel outfit based in Rakhine. The latest mass exodus of Rohingya began after the Myanmar army and security officials launched a massive counter-offensive on Aug. 25 to retaliate against an attack by ARSA on the country’s police and army posts.
The raids come more than a month after a group of Rohingya Hindus who arrived in Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state told local authorities they were tortured at gunpoint for hours by Rohingya Muslims in the 3,000-acre Kutupalong camp.
“Those who had held us numbered in the hundreds, and were brandishing pistols and rifles before they tied a cloth around our eyes and mouths,” Nitai Shill, 30, told BenarNews at a settlement of some 440 Rohingya Hindus situated a stone’s throw from the vast camp.
“They blindfolded us, tied our arms and led us deep inside the camp, where we were tortured for about eight hours by a mob. We were punched and kicked. When we asked for water, they made us drink our urine,” Nitai’s brother Tajol, 19, told BenarNews.
A group of 11 Hindus had gone to Kutupalong to collect money from a livestock sale, but only nine returned alive. One man’s body was found in a river and the other was still missing, the men said.
“The victims don’t know the spot where they say they were tortured by men with guns. They gave us names of the alleged perpetrators, but we haven’t been able to locate any of them,” Sub-Inspector Abul Kalam said, admitting the probe into the allegations had come to a standstill
Meawhile, Muslim refugees denied the allegations.
“Why would Rohingya want to hurt other Rohingya,” Mohammad Salam, a leader at the Kutupalong camp, told BenarNews. “And how do you imagine anyone can bring weapons into such a crowded place without getting caught?”
Amin said it was not difficult.
“This region is full of thick forests and waterways. There are numerous unguarded points along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. It’s very easy to sneak in anything and hide it,” he said.