Six Rohingya people were killed in Bangladesh refugee camp clashes that broke out hours after an International Criminal Court prosecutor visited the settlements to gather testimony, police said Friday.
Bangladesh is home to around a million ethnic Rohingya people, most of whom fled a 2017 military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar that is now subject to a genocide probe at the UN court.
This week’s violence was the latest in a series of deadly clashes between the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO), two rival insurgent groups operating in the camps.
Faruq Ahmed, a spokesman for the Armed Police Battalion that looks after security in the refugee camps, told AFP that five people had been shot dead in a gunfight before dawn on Friday.
“All five who were killed in the gunfight are members of ARSA including a commander,” he said, adding that security had been stepped up in the camps as a result.
Ahmed said that the violence came hours after the murder of Ebadullah, a refugee community leader, apparently at the hands of ARSA members.
Local daily Prothom Alo said Ebadullah, 27, had been marshalling refugees to meet with ICC prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan, who visited the camps on Thursday afternoon to record statements from witnesses to the 2017 crackdown in Myanmar.
The insurgent group did not immediately comment on the killings, but its members have been accused of targeting Rohingya civic leaders who challenge its authority.
Its leader, Ataullah Abu Ammar Jununi, was last year charged in absentia with the murder of popular peace activist Mohib Ullah in 2021. Mohib Ullah had regularly spoken out against ARSA’s activities in the camps.
Jununi and other key ARSA leaders are also accused of murdering a senior Bangladeshi intelligence officer last November.
The murder prompted security forces in January to evict a makeshift settlement on the Myanmar border that ARSA had allegedly used as a staging post for methamphetamine trafficking to fund its operations.
Dozens have been killed in Rohingya camp clashes so far this year, including women and children.
Funding cuts forced the United Nations food agency to cut rations to refugee settlements twice in recent months, with aid workers warning that the move would likely worsen the already precarious security situation in the camps.
Bangladesh and Myanmar have renewed efforts to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees to their homeland, where the stateless minority have been subject to decades of persecution and are denied citizenship.