Army operation started again in Bandarban, panic among public

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Photo: Symbolic

Hill Voice, 14 March 2023, Bandarban: The army have resumed combing operation in Ruma, Rowangchari and Thanchi upazilas of Bandarban district putting forward as a pretext to find Islamic militants and its shelter provider, Bawm Party terrorists. This has caused widespread panic among the people in the area.

According to local sources, the army operation started yesterday afternoon (March 13). For this purpose, 31 BIR of Alikadam Army Zone and 38 battalions of BGB Bolipara Zone have been deployed in the areas adjacent to the border road of Thanchi Upazila and Bawm villages of Remakri Prangsa Union of Ruma Upazila, 28 BIR of Ruma Army Zone have been deployed in Bawm villages of Paindu Union and its adjacent areas of Ruma Upazila and 5 EBR of Bandarban Sadar Zone have been deployed in the Bawm villages of Rowangchari area.

Earlier, from October 2022, joint forces led by the army launched a combing operation in Bandarban against Islamic militants and militant shelter providers in Ruma and Rowangchari of Bandarban and Bilaichhari upazila of Rangamati under Reingkhyong Valley. But in the said operation, the army failed to arrest any Islamic militant member or Bawm Party terrorist from these areas. On the contrary, it caused various harassment and sufferings to the innocent common villagers of the three upazilas.

During that operation, on 15 October 2022, 6 Tanchangya villagers were abducted by Bawm Party and Islamic militants from Saizam Para of Bortholi Union of Bilaichari Upazila of Rangamati District and one of them was killed.

Even during the combing operation, on 12 October 2022, armed terrorists of the Bawm Party and Islamic militants attacked the army at Saizam Para of Bortholi Union of Bilaichari, and there were reports of casualties and loss of arms and ammunition of the army.

On 21 October 2022, after 19 days of the operation, RAB announced in a press conference that 7 Islamic militants and 3 armed terrorists of the Bawm Party were arrested from the Bawm Party hideout in the operation. The claim that three members of the Bawm Party were arrested was not found to be true. It was not proved that they were armed members of Bawm Party. However, they were associated with the local division committee of the KNF and were detained from Ruma Bazar and various roads, not from hideouts of Bawm Party, according to various sources.

It is also reported that even the arrested 7 Islamic militants were not detained from the hideout of the Bawm Party, but were detained from different parts of the country during the operation and were shown to have been detained from the Bawm Party’s hideout.

It is also reported that the arrest of 9 Islamist militants from Tongkabati in Bandarban by RAB on 12 March 2023, has not been confirmed yet. Locals did not find any evidence that any area of Tongkavati was raided by RAB on that day or before. It is believed that the RAB is claiming that the arrested 9 Islamic militants were detained elsewhere and were shown to have been detained from the Tongkabati area by the RAB.

Furthermore, in a press conference in Bandarban Hill District Council hall on 8 February 2023, RAB’s claim of shooting incident between RAB and the new Islamic militant organization Jamaatul Ansar Phil Hindal Sharkia and Bawm Party armed terrorists in the remote Remakri Bridge area of Remakri Prangsa Union, and arresting 17 Islamic militants and 3 KNF members from the spot during the firing have already been proved to be completely false.

It is believed that RAB is promoting one after another such fake arrests to demonstrate the success of ongoing operations against Islamist militants sheltered in Bawm Party camps, mainly with the ulterior motive of misleading international public opinion.

However, sources confirmed that most of the Islamic militants who were arrested by RAB and CTTC (Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit) from other places were militants who escaped from KNF camps. The escaped militants were arrested by RAB and CTTC from different places and were shown to have been arrested from Bawm Party hideouts.

It is also to be worthy that, first of all, Bawm Party was sending the Islamic militants sheltered and provided military training in their camp from the hideouts through safe passage, due to the pressure of strong public opinion at home and abroad. Secondly, another one of the objectives in sending them to different parts of the country was to collect money so that they can send more money to the Bawm Party for next program.

Sources also reported that dozens of militant members including leaders of Jamiatul Ansar Hill Findal Sharqiya are still staying in the Bawm Party hideouts adjacent to Siloupi Para of Ruma. The Bawm Party has not yet backed down from providing shelter and military training to Islamic militants.

In fact, many local villagers have opined that during the operation started in the name of finding Islamic militants and terrorists who provided shelter to the militants, innocent ordinary villagers are being harassed.

For example, it has been alleged that the army harassed a pregnant woman named Jaunun Kung Bawm of Tamlau Para of Remakri Prangsa Union on 11 March 2023. At that time, the victim woman was returning to her village after seeing a doctor from Thanchi. At that time, she was called to the Baktalai army camp and was tortured mentally and physically. Meanwhile, the army threatened the woman that, ‘KNF terrorists have come to your village 3/4 times. But no one in your village informed the army.’ It is learn that as a result of this abuse, now the woman have suffered physical and mental trauma.