Rohingya militant group ARSA involved in diverse criminal activities


Beyond the confines of Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf and Ukhiya regions, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a separatist organization from Myanmar, has been consistently engaged in a range of criminal activities, including kidnapping.

Reports indicate that ARSA members are actively recruiting Bangladeshi nationals as intermediaries to facilitate ransom collection after abducting locals in the Cox’s Bazar area. Local Bangladeshi individuals, appointed by ARSA, negotiate with the victims’ families, demanding a ransom in exchange for the abductees’ release. However, there are instances where ARSA members have failed to release captives even after receiving payment.

Authorities assert that ARSA’s attempts to exert influence over the camps involve collaborating closely with Rohingyas. Detectives reveal that ARSA members have been implicated in acts of murder and violence within the camps, primarily to establish control. Additionally, they are engaged in kidnappings for financial gain.

Investigations have brought to light the involvement of various Bangladeshi NGOs with ARSA members. These revelations are currently under active scrutiny.

Commander Khandaker Al Moin, Director of the Law and Media Wing of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), confirmed that ARSA members are primarily accused of kidnappings and arms trafficking. “Their involvement in these activities has been substantiated. ARSA has also been linked to multiple homicides. Their intention was to cement their influence within the Rohingya camps,” he remarked.

The RAB official further pointed out that the security landscape has been compromised, as ARSA members have established a favorable rapport with locals, partly due to factors such as drug trade.

Intelligence sources indicate that ARSA’s leadership, including top-level figures Ataullah and Khaled, oversee operations from Myanmar. Although they have been sighted in Rohingya camps previously, their current whereabouts remain uncertain. These leaders have appointed individuals to oversee the camps and assume various roles.

Regarding possible connections between militant organizations and ARSA, an anonymous law enforcement official disclosed that Ziaul Haque, also known as Major Zia, has been spotted in the Rohingya camps intermittently.

In December 2021, the US Department of State offered a reward for information leading to the arrest of Zia.

In its announcement, the US Department of State stated:

“The US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, through its Rewards for Justice (RFJ) office, is offering a reward for information on the terrorist attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh that left US citizen Avijit Roy dead and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, seriously injured”.

“The Secretary of State has authorized a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of anyone involved in the murder of Roy and the attack on Ahmed”.

On February 26, 2015, assailants armed with machetes attacked Roy and Ahmed, both US citizens born in Bangladesh, while they were attending a book fair in Dhaka. Roy was killed, and Ahmed sustained severe injuries.

The investigation remains open, with the US seeking information to aid law enforcement agencies in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Six individuals were charged, tried, and convicted in Bangladesh. Two of the convicted individuals, Syed Ziaul Haque (aka Major Zia) and Akram Hussain, were tried in absentia and remain at large.

ARSA’s affiliation with Rohingyas and other militant outfits raises substantial concerns, as this alignment could potentially pose a significant security threat to the region. It’s noteworthy that the Bangladesh government granted temporary shelter to 1.20 million Rohingyas fleeing genocide in Myanmar since 2017.


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