Can Rohingya Islamic Militants Be Contained?

By Saleem Samad

The recent assassination of Rohingya leader Mohammad Mohibullah in broad daylight has raised new issues of security, safety and violence in the squalid refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, in southeast Bangladesh.

Several sources point their finger towards the Islamic militant outfit Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) active in the region and have taken shelter in the camps.

ARSA believes the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH) led by Mohibullah, which beliefs in peacebuilding and conflict resolution is their arch-rival, whereas the other opted for armed conflict.

ARSA leaders are born and raised in Pakistan, later migrated to Saudi Arabia for Madrasa education. The militant outfit has raised funds to acquire light weapons and trained in terrorism in Pakistan by military hawks of Rawalpindi GHQ – in other words, dreaded Pakistan’s spy agency ISI.

The Rohingya militants has strong links with Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), headed by a 40 plus-year-old Ataullah (Abu Ammar Junjuni) who has been aided and abetted by Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) while living abroad.

ARSA commander Ataullah hails from among the Rohingya refugees abroad. He was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, to a family of Rohingya refugees. The young man later moved to Saudi Arabia and was living among 150,000 Rohingya diaspora, where he served as an Imam in a mosque.

England based security analyst Chris Blackburn, who specialises in Jamaat-e-Islami said that against this backdrop, ARSA armed insurrection is described by security experts as home-grown, which is not true. Also not an offshoot of the defunct militant group the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO).

More than a million Rohingyas fled the restive Rakhine state when the Myanmar army (Tatmadaw) in a fresh crackdown in 2017 committed “textbook style genocide” and others fled to Bangladesh crossing the river Naf.

The Myanmar regime in the capital Naypyidaw declared the Rohingyas as aliens after the authority scrapped their citizenship and making them stateless. They were barred from education, employment, healthcare, economic migration and many basic services.

Well, the majority of the refugee lives in Bangladesh and the rest are in camps in India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Both India and Bangladesh are willing to help Myanmar rout the Islamic militants’ outfit, which has raised alarm in the capitals of New Delhi and Dhaka after the arrests of suspected Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) members recruiting Rohingyas.

On the other hand, the Pakistani-based Jaish e-Mohammed’s Masood Azhar has called for an active campaign of support for the Rohingya.

The region has had footprints of violent terrorism for decades. The presence of ARSA, as a dangerous add-on to the nexus of Islamic hard-line terrorist groups like Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) in Bangladesh, Indian Mujahideen and are aligned to Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET).

There are elements of foreign terror organisation having a hand in their incitement as there doesn’t seem to be any end to the plight of the Rohingya refugee’s insight.

Muslim Aid, a British charity organisation set up by fugitive Bangladeshi war criminal (who has been tried in absentia and awarded death penalty by Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal) have links to JeI in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Palestinian Hamas and numerous Jihadi groups.

Dr Wakar Uddin, who was featured prominently on the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) Facebook page has ties to Muslim Aid, is the chairman of a relatively shy American branch of the charity. It was known that Uddin was running ARSA’s Facebook page as an admin (the page has been blocked by Facebook admin).

Indonesia’s extremist Islamic – Defenders Front (FPI) having links to the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Muslim Aid network of charities and off let announced on social media and in press interviews that FPI is recruiting volunteers for ARSA in Myanmar. Well, ‘volunteers’ means recruiting Jihadis, Chris explained.

Bangladesh counter-terrorism intelligence has remained on a vigil, monitoring ARSA leaders, tracking their mobile and satellite phones on the fringe of the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

Earlier, Bangladesh authorities proposed joint military operations with Myanmar against ARSA terrorists in a low-intensity hit and run battle in Rakhine state.

India is sharing intelligence info with Bangladesh security agency and also with Myanmar on recent militancy by Islamic terrorists in the hill-forest terrain.

Meanwhile, India and Bangladesh have gathered enough intel to engage in counter-terrorism operations and rout ARSA militancy. Both countries are eager to flush out terrorists from the international borders with Myanmar.

The crucial issue remains on the onus of Myanmar and is conspicuously silent over the joint military operation.

After the military coup in Myanmar ousting the civilian government of 76-year-old Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi last February, and no strong voice in support for the agony of the Rohingya in the military government, the Tatmadaw will continue the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority.

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