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DHAKA: Police said on Saturday they had arrested three suspects and stepped up investigations into the murder of a prominent Rohingya leader who was shot and killed in a refugee camp in southern Bangladesh three days ago.
Mohibullah, 48, known by only one name, was one of the strongest supporters of Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority, speaking out on religious freedom at the White House in 2019 and leading his organization, the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, since 2017.
He was killed Wednesday in Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazaar district, home to nearly 750,000 Rohingya who fled persecution in Myanmar. Mohibullah was buried in Ukhiya cemetery the next day, with thousands attending his funeral prayer.
Police said on Friday they had arrested a suspect after his brother, Habibullah, brought charges against “unidentified” people after allegedly receiving death threats.
âWe arrested two more Rohingyas early Saturday in areas of the camp based on specific information about their involvement in the killing,â said the local armed police battalion superintendent. Naimul Haque told Arab News.
âWe learned that these two people were involved in the incident and that they went into hiding after the murder,â he said.
Haque added that they were studying the case from “every possible angle,” taking into account Mohibullah’s work with the UN and the government of Bangladesh to repatriate the Rohingya to Myanmar.
âMohibullah was working for the repatriation of the Rohingya, and there are groups in the camps who are against it. This could be another reason for the murder, âHaque said.
No group has yet claimed responsibility, but Habibullah has accused members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, one of several armed groups operating in Cox’s Bazaar refugee camps, of the crime.
âI received death threats from different corners after accusing ARSA. “We will kill you too since you mentioned the name of ARSA,” they said. I fear for my life, âHabibullah told Arab News.
In a Twitter post on Friday, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army demanded accountability for Mohibullah’s murder, saying she was “shocked and saddened” by his death. “It’s time to bring the criminals to justice instead of pointing fingers with baseless and hearsay accusations,” the group said in its statement.
Authorities deny the presence of the group or any militant organization in Bangladesh or the Rohingya camps, with Haque saying it was “too early to determine” who was behind the killing.
âWe don’t yet know if ARSA or any other organization is involved. Mohibullah was a very popular leader among the Rohingya, which may also have sparked this tragic incident, âhe said.
Rights groups have called for an urgent investigation into Mohibullah’s death.
In a statement released on Friday, Amnesty International said “it is now incumbent on the Bangladeshi authorities to expedite the investigation” into the murder and bring all suspects to justice.
“His assassination sends shivers down the spine of the whole community,” Saad Hammadi, Amnesty activist for South Asia, said in the statement.
The Bangladeshi authorities, for their part, have pledged “tough action” in this matter.
âThe government will take tough action against those who were implicated in the murder. No one will be spared, âForeign Minister AK Abdul Momen said in a statement on Saturday.
He alleged that an “invested neighborhood” killed Mohibullah “because he wanted to return to Myanmar, his country of origin”.
Mohibullah first came into the limelight in 2019 when he was invited to the White House and to address the United Nations Human Rights Council when he voiced his concerns about the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar. .
In the same year, he organized a mass rally attended by nearly 200,000 Rohingya in Kutapalong, the main refugee camp, marking the second anniversary of the community’s arrival in Bangladesh and consolidating its position as Rohingya leader.