Bangladeshi security forces killed eight Rohingya criminal suspects in two gunfights on Monday in Cox’s Bazar, authorities said, amid the southeastern district’s ongoing struggles with reported lawlessness and violence around sprawling Rohingya refugee camps.
The eight suspects were killed hours apart in separate shootouts with officers from the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), a police official in Teknaf, a sub-district of Cox’s Bazar, told BenarNews.
“Of them, seven were killed in a battle with RAB on a hill in Teknaf on Monday morning while another person died in a gunfight with BGB at dawn,” said Prodip Kumar Das, officer in charge at the Teknaf police station.
According to a local human rights activist, Monday’s killings marked the deadliest day of violence involving suspected Rohingya criminals in Bangladesh.
“This is the highest number of killings of Rohingya refugees in a single day of gun battles,” Nur Khan Liton, the former executive director of Ain O Salish Kendra, a local NGO specializing in human rights, told BenarNews.
RAB alleged that seven members of a gang of Rohingya robbers were killed near the Jadimura refugee camp while BGB said that officers killed an alleged Rohingya drug dealer.
None of the suspects were identified.
The RAB Teknaf Camp company commander said police received a tip that led to them to the gang led by a man identified as Jokir.
“Sensing our presence, the robbers opened fire on us prompting us to respond. Seven robbers were killed,” Lt. Mirza Shahed Mahtab told BenarNews.
Prodip said police would conduct another drive in an effort to capture and arrest Jokir and members of the gang.
At 11:30 a.m. Monday, RAB had the area of the shooting cordoned off as officers removed the corpses of the suspects.
Rohingya refugees watched the police action.
“I am afraid and could not eat my meal today,” Rajuma Begum, a resident of the nearby Salbon Rohingya camp, told BenarNews.
“I woke up at about 3 a.m. to gunshots. We heard gun shots until 9 a.m., she said. “The children were crying. Now peace will prevail in the camp, we hope.”
Another Rohingya expressed similar sentiment.
“We are happy to know that the tormentors of Rohingya have been killed. But still there is fear as Jokir, the big fish, was not caught. God knows what he will do to the residents in the camp,” Hafez Ahmed told BenarNews.
“We are used to hear gunshots in the camp every night. We cannot sleep properly and we are still afraid.”
RAB members killed an alleged member of Jokir’s group during a gunfight on Feb. 8.
About 1.1 million Rohingya who fled Myanmar are living in refugee camps just across the border in and around Cox’s Bazar. Most of them, more than 740,000, have arrived since a brutal military crackdown began in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017.
Nur Khan, the rights activist, said several gangs of robbers were operating in the district, where human smuggling and cross-border drug trafficking are rife.
“But it is necessary to analyze how such deadly gunfights happened there. RAB needs to be more careful in arresting robbers and avoiding killings,” Khan told BenarNews. “Arrests, rather than killings of robber gang members, are more effective for law and justice in the long run.”
In addition, the government launched anti-narcotics operations across the country beginning on May 4, 2018. Since then, 220 people, including four women, were killed in Cox’s Bazar gunfights, according to police officials.
Among those killed were 74 Rohingya, including two women.