Armed Arakan insurgent groups who are against Rohingya repatriation could have assassinated Mohibullah – a schoolteacher who emerged as a key leader and a spokesman representing Rohingyas in international meetings, according to community people and the victim's family.
They claimed these groups had become desperate to portray the Muslim ethnic community forcefully displaced from Myanmar as terrorists to jeopardise their repatriation bid and make the Rohingya genocide case with the international court questionable.
Mohibullah was shot dead point-blank at the Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar by unknown gunmen late Wednesday, police said. After the janaza on Thursday afternoon, he was laid to rest at the camp's graveyard.
The killing led to an escalated tension at the Rohingya camps in Ukhiya-Teknaf in Cox's Bazar. Most of the Rohingyas did not leave their homes as the local administration beefed up security measures. Aid operations almost remained suspended on that day.
Habibullah, Mohibullah's younger brother, said they said their night prayers at a camp mosque together on Wednesday. Mohibullah then went to the office of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights and was talking to Rohingyas there. At that time, a group of 20-25 gunmen turned up and shot at his brother.
"My brother had been active in repatriation initiatives. He always told the Rohingyas that we must go back to our country [Myanmar]. Ordinary Rohingyas also loved and trusted him for his determination in repatriation," said Habibullah.
He said his brother was known not only in the camp but also in the international arena.
Mohibullah visited the White House in 2019 for a meeting on religious freedom with then-president Donald Trump and spoke about the suffering and persecution faced by the Rohingyas in Myanmar. Also that year, he led a massive rally of around 2 lakh Rohingyas to mark the second anniversary of the crackdown by Myanmar's military that had caused about 7 lakh Rohingyas, including Mohibullah, to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Habibullah said, "ARSA [Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army] and al-Yaqin [Harakah al-Yaqin] leaders could not tolerate his humble leadership as they used to say that they would decide about the Rohingyas here and do everything."
Some Rohingya leaders on conditions of anonymity told the media that Mohibullah was assassinated as part of a plan by Myanmar. They claimed some of Mohibullah's fellows are also on the hit list.
Hamid Ullah, a Rohingya leader, said, "We want to return home. Myanmar is talking about taking us back at international meetings, but it is actually trying to foil the repatriation bid."
According to his claim, all terrorist activities going on in the camp are at the behest of Myanmar.
"They are using some misguided Rohingyas to carry out various terror activities under the banner of controversial organisations ARSA and al-Yaqin. Mohibullah assassination is premeditated," he said.
Another Rohingya leader Dil Mohammad mourned the death and said "the loss is irreversible".
Naimul Haque, commander of the 14th Armed Police Battalion (APBn), said additional police had been deployed in the camp since the incident and the situation was under control.
Ahmed Sanjur Morshed, officer-in-charge of Ukhiya Police Station, told The Business Standard that no case was filed over the killing of Mohibullah until Thursday afternoon, and none was arrested either.
Shah Rezwan Hayat, commissioner for Refugee Relief and Repatriation in Cox's Bazar, said law enforcement would be informed about the "allegations or rumours" going on centring the murder.
Anwar Hossain, deputy inspector general of police (Chattogram Range), said they were investigating about the murder and the motive.