Tambru tense as Rohingya groups clash

The violence has caused the entry of at least 500 Rohingyas to enter Bangladesh and take refuge at a school in the area of Naikhongchhari upazila.

Mohammad Al-Masum Molla

Mohammad Al-Masum Molla

The Daily Star


January 20, 2023

DHAKATension has been high along Tambru border in Bandarban as gun battle between two Rohingya militant groups resumed yesterday morning at a refugee camp on the no-man’s-land.

Some of the Rohingya people and intelligence officials said a fierce gun battle took place on Wednesday morning between the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO), both of which were trying to take control of Konarpara Rohingya Camp.

The violence has caused the entry of at least 500 Rohingyas to enter Bangladesh and take refuge at a school in Tambru area of Naikhongchhari upazila, said Muhammad Alam, a member of Ghumdhum Union Parishad.

Panicked Rohingyas also entered Myanmar during the gunfight, he added.

He added that firing between the two groups resumed yesterday morning and continued until around noon, he added.

Contacted, Naikhongchhari Upazila Nirbahi Officer Romen Sharma said he was aware that “some Rohingya families have entered Bangladesh”.

He added that the situation on the Bangladesh side of the border was normal, but people felt scared hearing the gunshots.

Around 6:28am on Wednesday, at least 100 RSO men laid siege to a meeting place of ARSA and started shooting, intelligence officials said.

The ARSA men then started shooting and the gunfight went on for around two and a half hours, said a Rohingya community leader, wishing not to be named.

The bullet-hit body of a Rohingya man named Hamid Ullah, 27, was found later. Doctors at an MSF-run hospital in Kutupalong confirmed the death.

Another man named Mohib Ullah, 25, was admitted to the facility with bullet wounds.

Both of them were wearing beige camouflage tops, said Sheikh Mohammad Ali, officer-in-charge of Ukhia Police Station.

A Rohingya leader, who was at the camp during the clash, said gunshots were again heard between 2:00pm and 3:00pm.

After that, the ARSA members set fire to their meeting place “possibly because they ran out of ammunition. ARSA strategy is to set fire to be able to escape from a spot,” added the community leader.

Rohingya leader Dil Mohammad said, “The gunfights were taking place over establishing supremacy.”

ARSA members also set fire to several huts, which caused widespread panic among people. Many Rohingyas fled their houses and took shelter near Tambru Bazar.

Several Rohingya sources from the camp said RSO members took control of Konarpara yesterday morning and found a number of bunkers believed to be used by ARSA men.

The Daily Star received five photos of the bunkers sent by the local sources. RSO members in their camouflage shirts were also seen in the photos, which were not verified.

Neither of the two groups claimed to be responsible for the violence.

Officials said the Border Guard Bangladesh was asked to stay alert.

The Konarpara camp on no-man’s-land hosts at least 4,232 Rohingyas who arrived there in 2017. Over a dozen refugees were injured during the clash over the last two days, said witnesses.

The ARSA and RSO have been rivals for years. The RSO was most active in the 1990s but lost its appeal to the people later. It reemerged last year while ARSA came into the spotlight in 2016.

ARSA is the group that launched deadly attacks on Burmese military and police outposts in Myanmar’s border state of Rakhine in August 2017.

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