The Rohingya leader’s family blames ARSA insurgents for the killing
Police have arrested a suspect in the murder of prominent Rohingya leader Md Mohib Ullah, who was gunned down at a camp in Cox’s Bazar.
Mohammad Selim alias Lomba Selim was arrested from a camp in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya on Friday, said Superintendent Naimul Haque of the Armed Police Battalion 14 (APBn).
“He was arrested around 11am and later turned over to the Ukhiya police station,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
On Thursday night, Mohib Ullah's brother Habib Ullah filed a case with Ukhiya police accusing unidentified people of the killing.
Gunmen shot dead Mohib Ullah, chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), at the Kutupalong camp Wednesday night.
According to his younger brother Md Habib Ullah, they had gone to the ARSPH office in Kutupalong’s Lambashia camp after the Esha prayers. Several shots were fired at them and Mohib was hit thrice.
Mohib Ullah was first rushed to a local medical facility and later sent to Cox's Bazar Sadar Hospital, where the on-duty doctor declared him dead.
Habib Ullah told AFP that his brother had received death threats from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in recent months and at least eight men from the group took part in the attack.
Mohib Ullah was buried at Lambashia camp-1 in Kutupalong refugee camp on Thursday afternoon with hundreds of Rohingyas in attendance.
Mohib Ullah’s assassination drew worldwide outrage, with the international community condemning the murder.
A teacher turned rights activist, Mohib emerged as a key refugee leader and spokesperson in international meetings.
In 2019, he was chosen to represent his community on a visit to the White House for a meeting with the then US president Donald Trump on religious freedom, where he voiced the persecution faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar.
That same year, he came under fire after he along with others led a massive rally of 200,000 refugees to mark the second anniversary of the Myanmar military crackdown.
Though it was peaceful, Bangladeshi authorities appeared rattled as a wave of xenophobia directed at the Rohingyas swept through the country.
According to Fortify Rights, an international NGO that has done advocacy on behalf of the Rohingya, Mohibullah’s rejection of violence had made him the target of death threats by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army militants and their sympathisers.
Who was Mohib Ullah?
Mohib Ullah, who was in his late 40s, was a teacher who later emerged as a key Rohingya leader and a spokesperson representing the Muslim ethnic group in international meetings. He was very popular in the Rohingya community due to his dedication to ensuring the rights of such vulnerable people.
“My brother used to step forward to solve any problems faced by the Rohingyas. He worked for a long time to ensure their rights. My brother was known as a leader of the Rohingyas not only here [Bangladesh], but also in the international arena,” said Md Habib Ullah.
Mohib had formed the ARSPH to ensure the Rohingyas’ repatriation to Myanmar.
Looking back at their work together, rights activist Noor Khan Liton said he and Mohib had been working in close association to ensure human rights, and that he had even talked to the fallen Rohingya leader as recently as last Tuesday.
Mohib had mentioned that his life was in danger, Liton said, adding that some extremist groups, including ARSA, had threatened him to stop him from raising his voice against the group’s terrorist activities.
Mohib lived in Kutupalong refugee camp with his family. He leaves behind his wife Nasima, three daughters and three sons.
Rohingyas at the camps said Mohib was a very popular figure as he had raised his voice even in Rakhine state against the military crackdown on the community. He had established ties with UN bodies to keep them abreast of the Rohingyas’ situation.
He played a great role in uniting Rohingyas who fled Myanmar fearing persecution by the security forces of the country.
Yang-Hee Lee, professor at Sungkyunkwan University and former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, tweeted: “Absolutely devastated at news of cold-blooded killing of Ko Mohibullah, Chair of ARSPH, in Cox's Bazar Refugee Camps. He was a courageous defender of Rohingya Human Rights.”
Mohib Ullah even visited the White House in 2019 for a meeting on religious freedom with the then president Donald Trump and spoke about the sufferings and persecution faced by Rohingyas in Myanmar.
Sometime later in Cox’s Bazar, he led a rally voicing the Rohingyas’ demands, including safe repatriation.
However, he was slammed by the Bangladeshi media after he led a massive rally of 200,000 Rohingyas to mark the second anniversary of the crackdown by Myanmar’s military.
Who wanted him dead?
There are around six major extremist groups operating in the Rohingya camps, including the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. ARSA had even directly threatened Mohib several times.
"ARSA forces have committed this murder. They often threatened to kill my brother from different (phone) numbers," his brother Habib Ullah told AFP.
“Maybe ARSA men killed him to suppress his humanitarian voice. We demand a proper investigation into the incident and punishment of the killers,” he said. "ARSA did not just kill our brother, they killed our great leader."
Meanwhile, Dr Sujit Kumar Datta, who teaches at the Department of International Relations of Chittagong University, said the authorities should also identify other aspects of the murder as it had raised several issues, including regional safety and security.