COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh – Bangladesh police announced on Sunday (Jan 16) that they had captured the brother of a prominent rebel leader whose group has been accused of murders and drug trafficking in vast Rohingya refugee camps.
Around 850,000 members of the stateless Muslim minority reside in haphazard and overcrowded settlements in the country after fleeing widespread discrimination and violence in Myanmar.
The militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has been accused of assassinating political opponents, trafficking narcotics, and creating a fearful atmosphere in the camps.
Mohammad Shah Ali, the half-brother of ARSA’s infamous leader Ataullah Abu Ammar Jununi, was detained late Saturday by the elite Armed Police Battalion.
In a statement, the battalion stated he was arrested carrying “weapons and drugs” in a camp near the seaside city of Cox’s Bazar.
Ali had revealed his ties with ARSA, according to commanding officer Naimul Haque, and “Ataullah was in constant communication with him.”
He also stated that one individual kidnapped by Ali had been rescued by police, without providing any other information.
The detention was confirmed by a Rohingya refugee living in the Nouakar Mat camp to AFP.
“Everyone here is afraid of him,” Mohammad Salim remarked. “We used to be oppressed by him.”
Almost bulk of the Rohingya refugees at the border camp arrived as a result of a savage Myanmar military campaign that began after ARSA attacks on Myanmar police posts in 2017. The crackdown is now the subject of a genocide investigation at The Hague.
Ali’s arrest was the most high-profile arrest of an ARSA member since the organization was suspected of killing key Rohingya community leader Mohib Ullah and seven others at an Islamic school shortly after in September 2021.
Following the deaths, Bangladeshi police started a dragnet throughout the camps, arresting hundreds of people.
Last month, UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar Tom Andrews visited the camps and condemned ARSA for the majority of the crimes committed there.
The arrest on Saturday elicited no immediate response from ARSA.
In a recent video message, however, Ataullah denied the group’s involvement in the drug trade, accusing Bangladesh authorities of trafficking methamphetamine pills and blaming Rohingya refugees instead.