The arrest of 23 armed Rohingya trespassers has fuelled speculation that the ethnic Muslims have engaged in the ongoing conflict between the Myanmar military and various rebel factions.
Bangladeshis are also fretting over unconfirmed reports that Nabi Hossain, the leader of Arakan Rohingya Army or ARA who terrorised locals in the past, has returned to Bangladesh.
The locals say Myanmar rebel group the Arakan Army and Rohingya Solidarity Organisation or RSO chased ARA members into Bangladesh on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.
Two years ago, Border Guard Bangladesh offered Tk 1 million in rewards for the capture of Nabi, a top suspect in drugs and arms trafficking, murder, robbery and kidnapping.
A video perpetrated to be of Nabi spread on social media from a Facebook page of ARA on Feb 5.
In the video, Nabi stands next to a stash of weapons and ammunition, claiming they achieved these by killing Myanmar Border Guard Police or BGP. He called on young Rohingya men to join the fight.
Locals said they heard Nabi’s group had taken control of a BGP camp in Dhekibuniya on the other side, but faced an assault by the Arakan Army and the RSO the day after publishing the video.
In an audio clip circulated among the Rohingya in the refugee camps, a man perpetrated to be Nabi claimed members of his group were captured by villagers and BGB when they were chased into Bangladesh by the Arakan Army and the RSO.
Md Gofur Uddin Chowdhury, chairman of Palongkhali, an union council in Cox’s Bazar bordering Myanmar, said many Rohingya fled to Bangladesh through Rahmater Beel and Anjumanpara borders on Tuesday.
Villagers captured some Rohingya with arms and handed them to police. The BGB later took custody of the rohingya trespassers.
The BGB did not comment on the detained Rohingya.
Altaj Hossain, a member of the union council, said they learnt from local sources that the Rohingya men caught by locals were from a camp of Nabi’s men on the other side of the border.
Locals suspect the 23 armed Rohingya men captured and handed to Ukhiya police by the BGB belong to Nabi’s group.
Speaking to bdnews24.com Ukhiya Police Station chief Shamim Hossain could not confirm which group the Rohingya militants belong to.
WHO IS NABI HOSSAIN?
Nabi, a native of Dhekibuniya in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, was among the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh during a brutal military operation in 2017.
Nabi began smuggling methamphetamine drug yaba after entering Bangladesh. He formed a group to back robbers, according to the law enforcers.
The BGB announced a Tk 1 million reward for the capture of Nabi in February 2022.
Lt Col Mehedi Hossain Kabir, the then commander of BGB Cox’s Bazar 34 battalion, had told bdnews24.com at the time that Nabi had several cases against him over trafficking in drugs and arms.
It could have been possible to bring crimes along the border under control had Nabi been captured, Mehedi had said.
The BGB officer had also said Nabi had been behind most incidents of yaba smuggling.
A large cache of crystal meth was found in Nabi’s secret camp after a gunfight in Ukhiya.
Residents of Dakkhinpara at Balukhali in Ukhiya said “everyone knows” Nabi’s men entered Bangladesh after being chased by the Arakan Army and the RSO on Tuesday night.
They believe more members of Nabi’s group ARA crossed the border than those caught.
Rahmater Beel, the village through which the Rohingya men entered Bangladesh, is a kilometre away from Balukhali, which houses a large refugee camp.
Danu Mia, a bus supervisor residing in Dakkhinpara, said locals were afraid of fishing in the Naff river because of Nabi’s men.
“Nabi’s men beat us up and demanded money from our families whenever someone went fishing. He will start a reign of terror if he gets more modern weapons.”
Mohammad Muktar, a shopkeeper, said: “It will be a great danger for us if Nabi Hossain enters Bangladesh. Our homes are directly hit by bullets whenever a gunfight erupts across the border.”
According to Muktar, locals have heard that Nabi has indeed entered Bangladesh.
Police said they did not have information that Nabi took shelter in a refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Khandaker Fazle Rabbi, superintendent of police at 8 Armed Police Battalion said: “We have heard that terrorist Nabi Hossain and his men crossed the border on Tuesday night. But there’s no confirmation that any of them took shelter in the refugee camps.”
“APBn personnel are on maximum alert over concerns that Nabi Hossain may enter the camps.”