Top ARSA Commander Killed in ‘Gunfight’ in Cox’s Bazar

By Muktadir Rashid   22 February 2019

DHAKA—A senior military commander of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), also known by its former name Harakah al-Yaqeen, was killed on Friday morning in what is being called a “gunfight” with the Bangladesh police’s specialized unit, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), in the Teknaf sub-district of the Cox’s Bazar.

ARSA has not yet made any statement on the death of their commander and top arms collector, Nurul Alam.

Alam is said to have been involved in, or an organizer of, a number of serious crimes committed, including murder, in the region since 2016, the most serious of which was the looting of arms from an Ansar security establishment near the Nayapara Rohingya shelter in Tekhnaf in May 2016. The commander of the Ansar battalion was murdered during the incident.

Bangladesh’s Ansar is a paramilitary auxiliary force under the home affairs ministry and is responsible for internal security and law enforcement.

The RAB completed its investigation into the case in August 2017 and submitted the charges to the local magistrate’s court but the case was still pending as of the time of Alam’s death on Friday.

RAB Battalion 7 spokesperson Mimtanur Rahman confirmed on Friday that they were carrying out a raid on a place called Damdamia located in the Teknaf sub-district at about 5 a.m. when they came under attack. In retaliation, they opened fire and one man was killed.

“They were preparing to commit a robbery along with others,” he added.

An RAB announcement stated that their operational team had exchanged fire with a group of “robbers” in which the “top robber”, the displaced Myanmar national Nurul Alam was killed.

It said they seized two “foreign-made” pistols, two magazines and 13 bullets from the scene.

In a number of videos released on social media since 2016, Nurul Alam has been seen holding a machine gun and standing beside ARSA leader Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi.

The RAB pinned the 2016 arms robbery and murder on nine people, one of whom was Alam.

Investigators told Dhaka-based daily newspaper New Age in August 2016 that the looted firearms and ammunition were taken to Maungdaw Township on the Myanmar side of the border by a small Maungdaw-based small extremist group.

The RAB claimed that they arrested Alam in the Kutupalong area of Cox’s Bazar on Feb. 28, 2017. In March the same year, acting on information given by the arrested Alam, they recovered a further six submachine guns in the same area of Bandarban.

In January 2017, the two ‘masterminds’ of the robbery—Khairul Amin and Master Abul Kalam Azad—were arrested along with some of the looted arms and ammunition in the deep forests of Bandarban District.

RAB’s Teknaf commander Lieutenant Mirza Shahed Mahtad said Alam had been in jail for a year until he was released on bail.

“Since then, he was absconding and hiding in the hilly area around Shalban and Muchini camps of Nayapara,” Mirza said. “He was involved in four or five recent killings inside the Rohingya camps including those of volunteers who had previously helped law enforcers to catch him.”

A Teknaf-Ukhia police additional superintendent Nihad Adnan Taian said they had been examining Alam’s records and his involvement in a number of murders.

Myanmar has blamed Rohingya extremists for the Aug. 25, 2018 strike on security posts in Rakhine State which triggered a fierce army crackdown causing over 700,000 Rohingya to flee to camps in Bangladesh.