A file picture of members of the elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) standing guard at the martyrs monument Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka, Bangladesh. EPA/EFE/ABIR ABDULLAH

Bangladesh arrests head of Rohingya militant group’s killing squad

Dhaka, Oct 16 (EFE) – Bangladesh’s elite security force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), said on Monday it had arrested the head of the killer squad of the Rohingya militant outfit, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), believed to be directly involved in two high-profile murders in recent years.

ARSA leader Samiuddin was arrested during a raid in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar on Sunday night, the RAB said in a statement.

Samiuddin was wanted for the murder of Mohibullah, the chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, in 2021 and the killing of a Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) officer on Nov. 14 last year, according to the RAB.

Mohibullah’s family has accused ARSA of his murder, and Bangladeshi police have charged 29 individuals, most of whom are associated with the group, over the incident.

Bangladesh authorities have launched a crackdown on the group after suspicions regarding their involvement in the killing of the BAF officer.

RAB said on Monday it had arrested 72 ARSA members since January, including several commanders.

Samiuddin formed a 20-member group known as the ‘Killer Group’ with active ARSA members under the direction of its chief, Ataullah, the RAB said.

“Arrested Samiuddin coordinated and directly participated in the assassination of Rohingya leader Master Mohibullah in September 2021,” said the statement.

“A group of about 12 people, including Samiuddin, broke into two groups and entered the office of Master Mohibullah and shot him dead. They later went into hiding,” it added.

He was also believed to have been directly involved in the murder of a top BAF intelligence officer, the RAB underlined.

Earlier this month, a local RAB commander told EFE they had arrested two other commander-level ARSA members involved in the killing of the BAF officer.

In 2017, ARSA allegedly carried out a series of attacks against security forces in Myanmar’s southern Rakhine province, leading to a brutal retaliatory campaign by the army that resulted in around 774,000 Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh, a number that has since increased to nearly a million.

Bangladesh had previously denied the presence of Rohingya militants among the refugees living in crowded camps in the country.

According to the Bangladeshi defense ministry, at least 11 armed groups, including ARSA, are active within the camps, leading to an increase in crimes – among them abduction and murder – in Rohingya refugee camps in recent months.

In July, the nonprofit Human Rights Watch reported the deaths of at least 48 Rohingya members in the first half of 2023, mainly at the hands of armed gangs in the camps, surpassing the 40 deaths recorded in 2022. EFE