United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) Organizer Michael Chakma has blamed rival group MN Larma Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS), and UPDF Democratic for the killings
At least seven men, including a pedestrian, were killed when assailants opened fire on a rally that was gathering at a busy area in Khagrachhari town yesterday morning.
The violent attack in broad daylight has engulfed the entire town in fear and panic.
At least three others were injured in the attack, which took place at Swanirbhar Bazar around 8:30am, said Khagrachhari Sadar police station Officer-in-Charge Shahadat Hossain Tito.
Gunfire was heard till 9am in the area as locals locked themselves in their homes, witnesses said. Police eventually brought the situation under control.
Doctors in Khagrachhari have sent the injured to Chittagong Medical College Hospital as their injuries appeared serious.
The rally was called by United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF), one of the hill-tracts ethnic groups-based parties that has lost a lot of members to violence in the last nine months.
The deceased have been identified as Pahari Chhatra Parishad (PCP-UPDF faction) Khagrachhari unit Acting President Tapan Chakma, its Organizing Secretary Elton Chakma, passerby and Mohalchari upazila Health Complex Health Assistant Gitayan Chakma, Democratic Youth Forum (DYF) VP Palash Chakma, Bangladesh Open University student Ripon Chakma, Poragacha area resident Shono Kumar Chakma, and Engineer Dhiraj Chakma of Panchari upazila.
Officials said five of the dead were UPDF leaders and activists while the remaining attack victim was a government health employee.
The injured are – PCP worker Sohel Chakma, and DYF members Shamar Chakma and Shakhidhan Chakma.
OC Shahadat said: “After the incident, security has been beefed up at the Swanirbhar Bazar area, and vehicle movement has been stopped on the Panchari- Khagrachhari road.”
Asked why police security was not given to the rally, he said the organizers had informed police the rally would start at 10am but they began gathering much earlier.
The UPDF has blamed its rival, Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS) MN Larma faction, for the attack.
Leaders of JSS MN Larma, which has also lost many members in these nine months, were unreachable for comments.
The Dhaka Tribune's findings are that the two parties are locked in a violent turf war in the three hill districts over control of territory, resources and local ethnic communities.
This conflict has already taken over 30 lives.
UPDF Organizer Michael Chakma blamed JSS MN Larma and breakaway faction UPDF Ganatantrik for the killings.
“JSS activists shot our men dead when they were campaigning for a program at the Swanirbhar Bazar,” he said.
JSS Spokesman Shudhakor Tripura would not pick up his phone despite repeated attempts.
Khagrachhari Superintendent of Police (SP) Ali Ahmad Khan said they suspect the shootings took place due to the ongoing political rivalry, and they are working to identify the shooters.
UPDF called a half-day blockade in Khagrachhari for tomorrow, according to a press release.
The bodies of four of the deceased have been handed over to the families and the remaining three are in Khagrachhari Sadar police station.
The OC said no case has been filed in these incidents yet.
He however, said police actions were launched to track down the assailants to be exposed to justice while additional police force was deployed at the scene to prevent any further violence.
Dhaka Tribune Khagrachhari Correspondent Nuruchsafa Manik contributed to this story