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Five arrested over killing of Rohingya leader

29th Oct 2021

Elham Asaad Buaras

Five Rohingya men have been arrested over the killing of a prominent community leader in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, police announced on October 3, adding that they were probing links to a militant group.

Mohib Ullah, a leading figure for the more than 800,000 Muslim minority who fled the Myanmar military in a mass exodus—was killed by gunmen on September 29 in one of the refugee camps in southeast Bangladesh.

Unidentified gunmen killed Mohib Ullah, Chair of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where he had been advocating for the nearly one million fellow Rohingya refugees in the camp.

Mohammad Nowkhim, a representative for the ARPSH, said 46-year-old Mohib Ullah was talking to other refugee leaders outside his office after attending evening prayers when an unidentified gunman shot him at least three times. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was declared dead.

His family blamed militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a group behind several attacks in Myanmar, with activists claiming they were enraged by his growing popularity in the camps.
And while authorities have stepped up security in the camps, Mohib Ullah’s family said they were afraid of even stepping outside their homes.

“We can’t get out of the house. They (ARSA) are threatening to kill us,” said Mohib Ullah’s younger brother, Habibullah.

“We received threats through audio messages in the past few days. I am now in a state of panic. We received death threats for saying that ARSA members killed my brother.”

“We have arrested five people over the murder of Mohib Ullah,” said the commanding officer of the police unit in charge of camp security, Naimul Haque.

Two of the men were remanded in custody for three days for questioning, authorities said. The other three have not yet appeared in court.
A 28-year-old Rohingya man was also arrested over the murder.

All six are being investigated for links to ARSA, which has instead blamed “unidentified criminals” for Ullah’s death. A member of the rights group that Mohib Ullah headed up alleged that one of those arrested, 35-year-old Mohammad Elias, was a member of ARSA and had threatened the popular leader in June.

The member, who asked to remain anonymous as he feared for his safety, said at least ten leaders of Mohib Ullah’s group were in hiding as they were afraid of more attacks. Mohib Ullah had spoken internationally about Rohingya rights, travelling to the White House to meet former president Donald Trump, and speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in 2019.

In his address to the UNHRC, he said: “Imagine you have no identity, no ethnicity or country. Nobody wants you. How would you feel? This is how we feel today as Rohingya. For decades we faced a systematic genocide in Myanmar. They took our citizenship. They took our land, destroyed our mosques. No travel, no higher education, no healthcare, no jobs… We are not stateless. Stop calling us that. We have a state. It is Myanmar.”

A spokesman for the Cox’s Bazar police, Rafiqul Islam, said they were ready to provide security to Ullah’s family if they made an appeal.

Mohib Ullah’s assassination has been widely condemned by international human rights bodies. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for a “prompt, thorough, and independent investigation” into the killing.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, said, “Mohib Ullah was a vital voice for the community of Rohingya who had already suffered unimaginable loss and pain when they arrived as refugees in Bangladesh. He always defended the rights of the Rohingya to safe and dignified returns and to have a say in the decisions concerning their lives and future. His killing is a stark demonstration of the risks faced by those in the camps who speak up for freedom and against violence.”

“Mohib Ullah’s death undermines not only the struggle of Rohingya refugees for greater rights and protection in the refugee camps but also their efforts to safely return to their homes in Myanmar. Bangladesh’s authorities should urgently investigate Mohib Ullah’s killing, along with other attacks on Rohingya activists in the camps,” Ganguly added.

Amnesty International urged a thorough investigation into Mohib Ullah’s death and for the Bangladeshi authorities and the UN refugee agency to work together to ensure the protection of people living in the camps, which the group said were facing an “increasing problem” of violence often linked to the control of illicit drugs.

“His killing sends a chilling effect across the entire community,” Saad Hammadi, Amnesty’s South Asia Campaigner, said in an emailed statement.
“The onus is now on the Bangladeshi authorities to expedite an investigation into his murder and bring all those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice.”

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