In the wake of huge influx of Rohingya, Bangladeshi security forces were on alert for attempts by homegrown Islamist militants to use the violence against Rohingya Muslims to recruit new fighters, a top police official said on Saturday.
Nearly 300,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state for Bangladesh in the 15 days since the latest fighting erupted, according to the United Nations.
Many of those have arrived with harrowing accounts of deaths and rapes at the hands of Myanmar troops and Buddhist militias.
Images purportedly showing atrocities against the Rohingya have flooded Bangladeshi social media, triggering an outpouring of sympathy among locals, who have historical ties with the community.
Monirul Islam, chief of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit, said forces were on the lookout for any efforts to use the violence against Rohingyas to rally homegrown extremists.
“We have taken appropriate surveillance measures and are on alert against the move by the inactive militants to draw inspiration from this [violence against Rohingya] or use it for recruitment purposes,” he told reporters.
Officials said they were particularly concerned that some of the homegrown groups would recruit students from the thousands of Islamic seminaries in the country to fight for the rights of the Rohingya.
“But we are all on alert so that no quarters can create disorder by exploiting the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar,” he said.Several fringe Islamist leaders have already issued calls to arm Rohingya refugees and help liberate Arakan, the Bengali name for Rakhine.
Bangladesh’s government has a long-standing policy of “zero tolerance” towards extremism and hosting insurgent groups of neighbouring nations.
After the latest violence broke out, Dhaka proposed joint military operations with Myanmar against Rohingya militants fighting in Rakhine state.
On Friday, more than 15,000 supporters of Islamist parties in Bangladesh staged demonstrations after weekly prayers, part of wider Muslim protests across Asia protesting the killings of Rohingyas by Myanmar’s army.