Raingkhyong Operation: Islamist militants and its patron KNF remain elusive

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Hill Voice, 15 October 2022, Special Reporter: Today on Saturday (October 15), the combing operation of army and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) across Bilaichari, Rowangchari and Ruma upazilas of Raingkhyong valley has entered into 13th consecutive days.

Apparently, the main target of this operation from the very beginning was the villages and localities of Jumma people of the three upazilas under the Raingkhyong valley that are the strong organizational base areas of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS).  However, on 6 October, the press briefing of RAB revealed the information of the training and patronizing of militants named ‘Jamayatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharquiya’ by the hill armed terrorist group and this operation turned against the Islamic militants.

As a result, at one stage, the operation has mainly been concentrated by targeting the main hideout (headquarters) of the Bawm Party and Islamic militants, which is currently established in Ramettang Hill.

But it is very mysterious that although operations are being conducted targeting the Islamist armed militants ‘Jamayatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya’ or ‘Jamaat-e-Arakan’ and its patron armed terrorists of the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) known as Bawm Party, but still the masterminds of the Islamic militants and the Bawm Party remain elusive.

Army and RAB kept surrounded the main den of Bawm Party and Islamic militants located at Ramettang Hill adjacent to Ronin Para (village), but mysteriously President of Bawm Party Nathan Bawm and its Chief of Military Wing Vanchunglian Bawm escaped from the den along with sophisticated weaponry and Islamist militants including Shamim Mahfuz.

Reportedly, three army personnel were killed and 7 were injured in a gun fight between the army and the armed terrorists of the Bawm Party during the operation. Besides, the army lost one LMG and one Chinese rifle. On the other hand, two terrorists of Bawm Party were killed in the encounter and the army reportedly recovered a 0.22 bore rifle and three SBBL guns from the Bawm Party.

It is to be noted that around 1,000 army and RAB personnel from Bandarban, Ruma and Bilaichhari zones started the operation from the morning of October 3.  At this time, some army personnel surrounded the main haunt of Bawm Party and Islamic militants located on Ramettong Hill (Sippi Hill) adjacent to Ronin Para of Rowangchari Upazila.

Due to army’s cordoned off Ramettong Hill and movement, there was panic among the Bawm Party armed terrorists. According to local sources, they were prepared themselves to resist the army’s entry into their main den (headquarters) in Ramettong Hill at any cost.  Even Bawm Party informed the locals that drone flying and movement of armed personnel would not be tolerated within 600 meters of its hideout.

There was an attempt by the army to have a meet Nathan Bawm, President of the Bawm Party, but Nathan Bawm did not agree. However, he agreed to send Vanchunlian Bawm, chiefs of the military wing of the Bawm Party and Muntrial Bawm as his representatives.

On October 9, a DGFI official had a talk with Vanchunglian Bawm, the so-called field commander of the Bawm Party calling him to Ronin Para. There, the DGFI official rebuked Vanchunglian alias Lt Col Solomon for not being able to keep their secrecy.  Expressing anger he said, “These incidents are happening now that everyone has come to know about the sheltering of Islamic militants in the camps of Bawm Party and the KNF’s link with them.”

Salem Bawm, a member of Bawm Party who runs a Facebook page naming Va te Kuki from Thenzawl in Mizoram, threatened on his Facebook page to the army, stating, “If we want, we can finish all the operatives immediately. What do you think of us? We are Kuki-Chin people, you know eating raw is our birth habit. Even don’t take a futile effort to apprehend us, KNF’s activists. By doing this, the government will be adversely affected. I’d say, leave the Rounin Para as soon as possible. If not, we have to take the action seriously. Which the government has never thought of it. Maybe you have not seen our courage with your own eyes. If you have seen our violence, you will not have the courage to utter the word ‘Kuki-Chin’ in your life.”

Tops of Bawm Party and Islamic militants escaped off military cordon:

The Army and RAB kept surrounded the main base of the Bawm Party and Islamic militants on Ramettong Hill adjacent to Ronin Para. But mysteriously, at some point, President of the Bawm Party Nathan and the armed chief Vanchunglian Bawm escaped from the den along with Islamic militants including Shamim Mahfuz and sophisticated weapons breaking the cordon.

It appears that although the camp of the Bawm Party was cordoned, the army strategically allowed Nathan Bawm to escape with the Islamist militants. As a result, they were able to flee unhindered.

However, Nathan Bawm left 15/20 armed members of his party in the haunt. It is learnt that while fleeing, Nathan Bawm instructed his armed men, “If the army do not attack, you will not open fire. If you are attacked, then you will make counter attack.”

According to reliable sources, after escaping from Ronin Para, Nathan Bawm along with Islamic militants crossed the Happy Hill and stayed in the forest adjacent to Mualpi Para on October 9. It is said that all foods were provided for them from Mualpi Para (Bawm Para). It is believed that Nathan Bawm may again go to Siloupi Para in Ruma, which was his previous hideout.

Bawm Party terrorist arrested and use of drones and helicopters in operations:

On October 10, three drones were flown in Gangachara. On that day, a helicopter flew over Bortholi Para of Bilaichari and Ramettong Hill for three times. Similarly, it also flew over Ronin Para for three times in the evening.

At around 2:00 am on 12 October, the army and RAB entered the main hideout established at Remettong Hill without any opposition.  Only a few rounds of blank shots were fired by RAB. Army and RAB entered the hideout and detained three members of the Bawm Party, beaten up some people and recovered some documents. However, they could not detain any Islamic militants.

The arrested members of Bawm Party were identified as (1) Bamanun Bawm, son of Laltankung Bawm, address- Chaikhyong Para, Remakri Prangsa, Ruma; (2) Rammoy Bawm, Chief of the Food Department of the Bawm Party, address-  Baktalai Para, Thanchi and (3) former teacher of Sunsong Para Junior High School and self-proclaimed Lt. Col. Lalmuntrial Bawm of the Bawm Party, address :-Sunsong Para.

Nathan Bawm’s elder brother Laljaju Bawm (58) was apprehended by a group of RAB-15 personnel from his house at Eden Road in Ruma on October 13 night. He was a cashier in Ruma branch of Sonali Bank.

On October 14, a Bawm villager named Aidum Bawm was detained by the army.  Till writing of this report, for what reasons he was arrested could not be known.

Firing on Army by the Bawm Party Terrorists:

On October 12, armed terrorists of the Bawm Party attacked the army in Saizam Para of Bortholi. On that day, when the army personnel first fired blank shots, the armed terrorists of the Bawm Party suddenly opened fire on the army from inside the forest. Three soldiers were seriously injured on the spot. They were brought to Heingochara and from there taken to Chittagong Military Hospital by helicopter.

According to another source, three army personnel were killed and 7 injured and two are missing in the incident. Apart from this, the army lost one LMG and one CR and nearly several thousand rounds of ammunition went missing from the ammunition box. On the other hand, two members of the Bawm Party were killed. Besides, the army have detained two members of the Bawm Party. Army seized a 0.22 bore rifle from Bawm Party. In this incident, the forehead of the Subedar of Bortholi Para Army Camp was cut. However, it was not possible to verify this information with reliable sources.

As soon as the army were attacked, they launched a counter-attack. The Bawm Party terrorists somehow escaped and crossed the Reingkhyong Khal. Locals believe that this group of Bawm Party was the group under the command of Vanchunglian.

According to the latest information, on October 14 at noon, the army again exchanged fire with the armed terrorists of the Bawm Party in Hangangyachara of Reingkhyeong. However, no casualties were reported.

Regular withdrawal money from Islami Bank:

On the day (October 3), the army and RAB operations began, president of Bawm Party Nathan Bawm went to Amirabad in Lohagra Upazila of Chittagong. There he withdrew Tk 30 lakhs from Lohagara branch of Islami Bank. It should be noted that this Amirabad is the base of Jamayat-shibir and the hideout of militants.

He returned to Bandarban the next day on October 4 and was received by Sangpui Bawm in Bandarban, a resident of Gethsamoni Para. Sangpui Bawm brought him down on a bike to the Debota Hill of Ruma-Rowangchari Road.

Note that Nathan Bawm’s people regularly withdraw money from Islami Bank. Many people are of the opinion that this money may be monthly payment of Islamic militants given to Bawm Party. Felenk Bawm (35), son of Nguntli Bawm, a resident of Lairunrupi Para in Ruma, withdraws money from the Lohagara branch of Islami Bank every month and buys necessary medicines for Bawm Party

Army in trouble over Bawm Party:

Recently, the army is in trouble with Bawm Party. The Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) widely known as Bawm Party is the latest armed terrorist group after various armed terrorist groups have been sponsored and sheltered by the Army, DGFI, ruling Awami League and the government aiming at foiling the process of implementation of Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord and thwarting the movement of the Jumma people for implementation of CHT Accord as well as rights to self-determination.

Many concerned are of the opinion that today the army is stuck in its own tricks. The army created the Bawm Party with the great interest to fulfill and have indulged them in terrorist activities like murder, kidnapping, extortion etc. against Jumma people including PCJSS. But today the army has made way for its own destroyer with the Bawm Party.

On October 12, the army distributed a leaflet titled ‘Special Announcement’ in the operation area. It asked the militants who came from plain to surrender that day on October 12, by 6:00 pm. “If you don’t surrender, there will be a tough operation against you,” it said. The leaflet also states that “law enforcement forces are definitely aware of who these militants are harboring and sheltering.” It is particularly noteworthy that the army has not specifically mentioned who is harboring these militants. The names of the patrons have been conveniently omitted.  Many people fear that there are ghosts in mustard here.

Even the loss of a substantial amount of ammunition including an LMG and a Chinese rifle is also being questioned by many suspiciously. Many consider this incident to be a part of empowering the Bawm Party and Islamic militants.

Apparently, under international pressure, the government was forced to carry out this operation against Islamist militants harbored by the Bawm Party. As the Bawm Party is directly supported by the army, hence, RAB battalion and some army officers have been sent from Dhaka to take control of the operation as they cannot rely on the local army officers. But despite that, at last all has gone in vain. The army maneuvered to allow Bawm Party leader Nathan Bawm including his men to escape along with Islamist militants.

Through this drama of the army, it is understood that the army deployed in CHT has its own agenda which is not compatible with Dhaka or the government. In this way, due to the weakness of the government, today the army has kept the CHT problem sustained through various conspiracies instead of solving problem political and peaceful way by implementing the CHT Accord.  According to informed sources, the people of the country have been being paid highly price for this till date, the well-informed people said.