Rohingya refugee camp murders blamed on rivalry, grudges

Police also believe the 19 killings at Cox's Bazar may be the result of criminal gangs exploiting vulnerable people
Rohingya refugee camp murders blamed on rivalry, grudges

A Rohingya refugee performs prayers at Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh in this Aug. 25 file photo. Government officials say personal grudges, group rivalry and crime are to blame for at least 19 murders in Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar over the last 13 months. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP)

Personal grudges, group rivalry and crime have been blamed for at least 19 mysterious murders in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar over the last 13 months.

Muhammad Nikruzzaman, chief government officer at Ukhiya, Cox's Bazar, puts the murders down to long-standing personal disputes within the Rohingya refugee community.

"As far as I can see, the murders occurred over personal enmity between Rohingya and it started in Rakhine," said  Nikaruzzaman. "In one case, a man stabbed another man to death who he accused of killing his brother back home."

One Mazi, the title of an appointed community leader in the camps, blamed rivalry within the camps.

"There are several rival groups active in the camps ... agents of the Burmese government who oppose repatriation and those who want to go back," Sirajul Huq, 47, a Mazi in Kutupalong camp told ucanews.com.

"We are not sure if any Mazi are involved with groups, but we suspect the rivalry between the groups might be a cause of the violence and the killings."

One of the most brutal attacks was on June 18 when 35-year-old community leader Arifullah was stabbed to death at a busy road outside the Balukhali camp, Reuters reported.

Police said a group of men surrounded Arifullah and stabbed him at least 25 times. Arifullah spoke English and had worked for international agencies in Myanmar and had met foreign delegates visiting the camps.

His wife said Arifullah had been a critic of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) but police investigators said at the time they had no evidence to link the attack to the militant group. ARSA denied any involvement in the killing and said other "armed groups" were trying to malign its name.

Police have bolstered security at the camps to over 3,400 personnel to protect the total refugee population which is put at 1 million.

Police also believe that the murders could be connected to Bangladeshi human- and drug-trafficking networks, according to a report in the Dhaka Tribune.

Afruzul Haque Tutul, who until mid-August was deputy police chief of Cox's Bazar, said gangs were extorting "huge money" from refugees desperate for land, food and shelter.

Tutul said few officers spoke the Rohingya language, further hampering inquiries and fear of reprisals had kept mouths shut.

"That is why Rohingya do not come forward. They are scared. In your town, if criminals or terrorists or robbers were there, you will definitely be scared," Tutul told the Dhaka Tribune.

Community leader Sirajul Huq said he could not give a reason for the murders. But he added: "I can tell no outsider was involved. The clashes occurred over repatriation and doing businesses in the markets of the camps." 

More than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee their homes in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State from August 2017 after the military launched a brutal crackdown in response to militant attacks on security posts.

The military blamed the attacks on ARSA and collaborators within the Rohingya community.

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