UCA News

Many flee homes after 8 Christians killed in Bangladesh

Killings on April 6 occurred during a gunfight between two tribal insurgent groups, police say
Famed for natural beauty Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts is also a hotbed of bloodletting insurgency. In the latest violence, eight Christians from the tribal Bawm community were allegedly killed by an insurgent group on April 6

Famed for natural beauty Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts is also a hotbed of bloodletting insurgency. In the latest violence, eight Christians from the tribal Bawm community were allegedly killed by an insurgent group on April 6. (Photo: Amnesty International)

Published: April 12, 2023 10:30 AM GMT
Updated: April 12, 2023 10:38 AM GMT

Some 200 people were forced to flee their homes in Bangladesh after eight tribal Christians were killed on Maundy Thursday in a gun battle between two insurgent groups in a remote village in the restive Chittagong Hill Tracts.

They fled their homes fearing further violence in Khamtangpara, a village in Bandarban district where the attack took place on April 6, said Naiton Bawm, a leader of the ethnic Bawm people.

“Around 200 people fled the area. They now live in government-run schools. The government provides them with food. They can return home only when the situation becomes normal. We Bawm people live in fear,” Naiton told UCA News.

Police recovered eight bodies from the village on April 7, Abdul Mannan, the Rowangchhari sub-district police chief told UCA News.

All the dead were Christians — four Baptists and four Presbyterians, said Pastor Georgy Loncheu of the local Presbyterian Church.

“Our Good Friday and Easter were very painful. We Bawm people are worried. On Easter Sunday, we prayed for the souls of those who were killed. We prayed to God so we have the patience to overcome this shock,” Loncheu told UCA News.

Mannan said local people alerted police to the gunfight between insurgent tribal groups — the Kuki-Chin National Front and the United People's Democratic Front. Two guns were also found near the bodies, Mannan said.

Loncheu said only one of the eight victims might have been a member of the Kuki-Chin National Front, but did not give details.

“Terrorists killed them and claimed they were insurgents,” he said.

The wife of one of the victims, Sankhum Bawm, who now lives with her daughters in a government school, told UCA News they were “afraid to return home” fearing further violence.

“Our daughters’ education will stop now because my husband was the only earning member in our family,” she said.

“My husband was innocent. I want punishment for those who killed my beloved husband,” she said.

Those killed are suspected members of the Kuki-Chin National Front, a newly emerged rebel group, police said.

The violence-hit village comes under Ronwagnchhari, a town shut to tourists since October when security forces launched a crackdown against the Kuki-Chin National Front.

That operation reportedly displaced hundreds of tribal people, with some walking for days to cross the border and take refuge in a remote corner of northeastern India.

The Hill tract, a forested region comprising Bandarban, Rangamati, and Khagrachhari districts, is the Muslim-majority nation’s only mountainous and tribal-dominant region bordered by India and Myanmar.

For decades, the region has been home to about a dozen tribal groups, mostly Buddhists but also some Christians.

The Hill Tracts started to witness violence when tribal militia launched an armed insurgency against government forces demanding a separate tribal homeland some five decades ago. A peace treaty was signed in 1997 but some tribals opposed the treaty and continued the fight by forming another insurgent group.

The group split in recent years, triggering a new wave of violence and a series of killings and counter-killings in turf wars.

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