Did the killers want to establish dominance or to hinder repatriation?
Police are yet to discover the motive behind the murder of prominent Rohingya leader Md Mohib Ullah, but the arrest of a suspect in the case on Friday marks the first step towards finding answers.
Mohammad Selim alias Lomba Selim was arrested from a camp in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya around 11am and handed over to police.
Drives are underway to identify and arrest more of the accused, based on leads from several witnesses, police sources said.
Mohib Ullah, chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), was shot dead at a Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar by unidentified assailants at around 8pm on Wednesday.
“We are trying to arrest the perpetrators, which would make clear the reason behind the murder. Our initial belief is that the assailants killed him to dominate criminal activities at the Rohingya camp," said Naimul Haque, an Armed Police Battalion (APBn) commander in Cox’s Bazar.
“Mohib Ullah was a barrier to criminal activities as he worked for peace. We are also looking at external factors that may have motivated the murder,” he added.
The murder may also have been committed to stop Mohib Ullah’s efforts for repatriation, he explained.
Muhib Ullah lived with his family in a small hut at D block of Kutupalong 1 (East) camp in Ukhiya. He used a part of the house as the ARSPH office.
Md Habib Ullah, Mohib’s younger brother, said they had gone to the ARSPH office in Kutupalong’s Lambashia camp after Isha prayers on Wednesday. The two of them were with 10-12 other people.
Soon after they reached the office, the attackers arrived and opened fire on Mohib. He was shot thrice.
“We instantly recognized three of the attackers, they were Abdur Rokim, Murshid and Lalu. The rest are also known faces in the camp. We can identify them if they are arrested,” Habib Ullah added.
He also claimed Abdur Rokim was a member of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
Other witnesses gave the same account as Habib Ullah.
However, at the police station on Thursday, Habib Ullah declined to name the accused in the case he started as he was unsure of their identities.
According to the police, Rokim and his gang have been controlling abduction, extortion, and drug trafficking in the area for a long time by holding the Rohingyas hostage at different camps.
Speaking to two high-ranking law enforcement officials who have been involved in maintaining law and order around the Rohingya camps for more than four years, it was learned that several Rohingya criminal organizations, large and small, have been operating there.
Ordinary Rohingyas at the camps often stay silent on criminal activities out of fear that they may face harm, the officials added.
Multiple intelligence sources said active criminals and terrorists in the camp include Ataullah, Hasim, Shamshul Alam, Jobayer, Arfa Ullah, Fazlul Kabir, Rahmat Karim, Abbas, Sona Mia, Rafiq Elias Amir, Abdul Shukkur, Abdul Monaf, Badi Ullah, Mushtaq and Ehsan Ullah, as well as Rahim Master.
Camp sources said Rokim regularly visits Myanmar and Bangladesh. He has two hideouts in the hills next to Kutupalong camp and a stockpile of heavy weapons.
Will repatriation be hindered?
According to multiple field-level officials, some terrorist and criminal organizations in the camp are actively working to hinder repatriation as they benefit from life at the camps.
These criminal groups are largely responsible for smuggling yaba from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Killing a prominent voice in favour of repatriation would ensure that they can continue their business, the officials said.
Many Rohingyas, asking to remain anonymous, said the terrorists had earlier brutally killed another popular Rohingya leader, Arif Ullah, for supporting repatriation.
Rohingya leaders Nur Mohammad, Mohammad Yunus and Abu Siddique have also been killed, and others are being targeted.
Ukhiya Upazila Parishad Chairman Hamidul Haque Chowdhury said the killing of one Rohingya leader after another was calling into question the security of the camp and its political significance.
He said it was important to consider whether a Myanmar conspiracy was behind the killings.
Hasanuzzaman, Cox's Bazar superintendent of police, said: “Rohingya leader Muhib Ullah was in favour of repatriation. He encouraged ordinary Rohingyas to return to their homeland. Ordinary Rohingyas listened to Muhib Ullah. That's why he became an enemy of anti-repatriation forces.
“We have already received some important intel. They are being verified and the drive will continue to detain all the suspected offenders,” he added.