DHAKA: Police said on Saturday they had arrested three suspects and intensified investigations into the murder of a prominent Rohingya leader who was shot dead at a refugee camp in southern Bangladesh three days ago.
Mohibullah, 48, and known by one name, was one of the staunchest advocates for the persecuted Muslim minority from Myanmar, speaking on religious freedom at the White House in 2019 and heading his organization, the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, since 2017.
He was killed on Wednesday at the Kutupalong refugee camp at Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazaar district, home to nearly 750,000 Rohingya who fled persecution in Myanmar. Mohibullah was buried at the Ukhiya cemetery the next day, with thousands attending his funeral prayer.
On Friday, police said they had arrested one suspect after his brother, Habibullah, filed a case against “unnamed” people after allegedly receiving death threats.
“We arrested two more Rohingya early Saturday from the camp areas based on specific information about their involvement with the murder,” local Armed Police Battalion Supt. Naimul Haque told Arab News.
“We have come to know that these two persons were involved with the incident, and they went into hiding following the murder,” he said.
Haque added that they were probing the case from “all possible angles,” factoring in Mohibullah’s work with the UN and the Bangladesh government to repatriate the Rohingya to Myanmar.
“Mohibullah was working for the repatriation of the Rohingya, and there are some groups in the camps who are against that. It might be another reason for the killing,” Haque said.
No group has claimed responsibility yet, but Habibullah accused members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, one of several armed groups operating in the Cox’s Bazaar refugee camps, of the crime.
“I’ve been receiving death threats from different corners after I accused the ARSA. ‘We will kill you also as you mentioned the name of ARSA,’ they said. I fear for my life,” Habibullah told Arab News.
In a Twitter post on Friday, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army demanded accountability for Mohibullah’s killing, saying it was “shocked and saddened” by his death. “It is time for bringing the criminals to account instead of finger-pointing 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 at Rohingya camps, with Haque saying it was “too early to determine” who was behind the murder.
“We are not yet sure whether ARSA or any other organization is involved. Mohibullah was a very popular leader among the Rohingya, which may have also triggered this tragic incident,” he said.
Rights groups have called for an urgent probe into Mohibullah’s death.
In a statement on Friday, Amnesty International said the “onus is now on the Bangladeshi authorities to expedite an investigation” into the murder and bring all suspects to justice.
“His killing sends a chilling effect across the entire community,” Saad Hammadi, Amnesty’s South Asia campaigner, said in the statement.
Bangladesh authorities, for their part, have vowed “stern action” in the case.
“The government will take stern action against those who were involved in the killing. Nobody will be spared,” Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen said in a statement on Saturday.
He alleged that a “vested quarter” had killed Mohibullah “as he wanted to return to Myanmar, his home country.”
Mohibullah came into the spotlight in 2019 when he was invited to the White House and to speak to the UN Human Rights Council when he voiced concerns over the persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar.
That same year, he organized a mass rally attended by nearly 200,000 Rohingya at Kutapalong, the main refugee camp, marking the second anniversary of the community’s arrival in Bangladesh and cementing his position as a Rohingya leader.