Human rights groups, US call for full investigation into death of Rohingya leader

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – Bangladesh police announced on Friday that they had arrested a suspect in the murder of a key Rohingya leader, who was an important voice in the repatriation of refugees to Myanmar.

Mohibullah, who was known by only one name, had been an international advocate for Rohingya rights, including going to the White House for a meeting on religious freedom in 2019.

He was fatally shot Wednesday evening in Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar district, southern Bangladesh, where an estimated 700,000 Rohingya Muslims had fled persecution in Myanmar. No group has claimed responsibility.

The man arrested on Friday was also a Rohingya, said Naimul Haque, a senior officer in the armed police battalion. He gave no further details and said he was being questioned.

Mohibullah’s brother Habibullah told reporters the attackers covered their faces during the attack but recognized some of them. He was with Mohibullah during the attack.

Another witness, Mohammed Sharif, a colleague of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights chaired by Mohibullah, said a group of eight to 10 people entered the office and three of them surrounded Mohibullah .

“One pointed the gun between his eyes, the other at his chest and another here on his arm and they all fired,” he said. “Then they fired two more shots in the air and rushed away. No one even realized that it all happened so fast.”

Fear and frustration gripped the sprawling camps after the murder.

“We Rohingya have now become like cattle ready to be slaughtered, what else can I say. I’m still in shock, ”said Sayed Alam, an uncle from Mohibullah. “The people who targeted my nephew are the same people who killed him and made him a martyr.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was saddened by the murder and praised Mohibullah as a courageous and fierce advocate for the rights of the Rohingya.

“We call for a full and transparent investigation into his death with the aim of holding the perpetrators of this heinous crime to account. We will honor his work by continuing to stand up for the Rohingya and make the voices of community members heard in decisions about their future, ”Blinken said in a statement.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also condemned the murder and called on the government to do its best to protect the refugees.

On Thursday evening, thousands of refugees attended funeral prayers before Mohibullah was buried in a cemetery inside the camp.

Mohibullah, a former teacher in his 40s, had served as spokesperson representing the Muslim ethnic group at international meetings. He visited the White House in 2019 for a meeting on religious freedom with then-President Donald Trump and spoke of the suffering and persecution facing the Rohingya in Myanmar.

That same year, he was bitterly criticized by the Bangladeshi media after leading a massive rally of 200,000 refugees to mark the second anniversary of the repression by the Burmese military.

Human Rights Watch called Mohibullah a vital voice for the Rohingya community. “He has always championed the rights of the Rohingya to safe and dignified returns and to have a say in decisions about their lives and futures,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, group director for South Asia, in a statement. communicated.

Violence in refugee camps is a growing problem, said Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s South Asia campaign manager. “Armed groups that operate drug cartels have killed people and held hostages,” he said, urging authorities to take immediate action to prevent further bloodshed.

Overall, Bangladesh has hosted more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar after previous waves of persecution. While Bangladesh and Myanmar have sought to organize repatriations, the Rohingya are too afraid to return.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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