We're Live Bangla Sunday, June 04, 2023

Naikhyangchhari border: Continuous mortar shelling from air and ground

Members of Myanmar’s Border Guard Police (BGP) patrol on Walidong hill on the other side of Ghumdhum border in Bandarban’s Naikhyangchhari on 6 September 2022 File photo

The firing along the Ghumdhum border in Naikhyangchhari upazila of Bandarban has intensified further. It has been learned that the freedom aspiring armed group, Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar security forces are locked into a fierce fight at different hills in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

Mortar shells and bombs are being fired from the fighter jets all night to diffuse the activities of AA. And during daytime, bullets and mortar shells are being fired continuously from the border outposts. Houses in the 20 villages along the Ghumdhum borders are being shaken up with the sound of mortar shelling.

Although firing in the Rakhine state of Myanmar has been ongoing for two months, it has been severe since Saturday night.

Abul Kalam, a trader from Myanmar who brought imported products from the country through the Teknaf land port, told Prothom Alo that the junta government has been gathering troops in the district town of Maungdaw in Rakhine state for several days. Soldiers and weapons are being loaded on ships and taken by river to the army barracks in Dhekubania from Mangdu.

He further said, “The 30-40-km road from Mangdu northwards (towards Ghumdhum) to Kwachimong, Balibazar, Dhekubania and Tumbru Right areas has not been plied by the security forces for several days. Members of armed groups have been carrying out sneak attacks targeting the Myanmar Army and Border Guard Police (BGP) while traveling by road.”

“There are several bases of the Arakan Army (AA) and the Arakan Salvation Army (ARSA) in the hill-forest on the eastern side of the road. Bombs are being fired at night from fighter jets and helicopters to destroy the bases,” trader Abul Kalam added.

Firing all night

At around 2.30pm on Sunday, some residents of Paschimkul village in the Ghumdhum union of Naikhyongchari were talking about the firing all night. Suddenly, five mortar shells were fired from the outpost on the Tumbru Right hill. With a loud sound, the shells fell in the hills of Rakhine State on the eastern side of the border outpost. The houses in Bangladesh started shaking with the sound of the shell.

Mentioning that the sound of continuous firing for over two months has become intolerable, farmer Abul Foyez, 50, of Pashchimkul village said, “How long will we endure this pain? There is continuous firing from air and the ground. We can barely sleep. We are passing days in constant fear of tremor.”

The central Jame Masjid of Paschim Tumbru village is some 500 yards away from the outpost on the Tumbru Right hill.

Nurul Azim, imam of the mosque, said some five to six shells were fired from that outpost during the Zuhr prayer on Sunday. Sounds of mortars in the middle of the night are putting the children into a mental crisis.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Shafiqul Islam, UP (union parishad) member of Ghumdhum ward no. 1, said, “A fierce fight has broken out between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar Army. The firing has intensified since Saturday night. Some 50 to 60 mortar shells were fired from a fighter jet between 11.00pm Saturday to 3.00am Sunday. The fighter is taking off from the army base in Dhekubuniya every 10-15 minutes and starts firing after rising around 500 to 1000 feet in the air.”

Meanwhile, the houses of some two and half thousand residents of the villages under ward no.1, including Paschimkul, Camppara, Jamtali, Tentultali and Hindupara, are being shaken up due to the tremor caused by the shelling. Some 20 families live in the Hindupara village. The village is located along the border. The Durga Puja celebration in the village has become uncertain due to the fear of shelling.

Rohingyas on zero line in fear

More than 4,200 Rohigyas reside in the camp along the zero line of Tumbru border. There were two outposts of the Border Guard Police (BGP) of Myanmar on the hilltop behind the camp even a few days ago. Now there are four BGP outposts and two army bases after every 250 yards on the hilltop. Bullets and mortar shells are being fired from these outposts and army bases.

Chairman of the camp management committee Dil Mohammad told Prothom Alo that the border was quiet since yesterday morning. However, the firing suddenly restarted from the outpost at around 12.00pm Sunday. At this time, five mortar shells were fired within just five to six minutes. After that, several more mortar shells were fired intermittently till four intermittently till 4.00pm.

The Rohingya leaders say at around 10.00pm on Saturday night, a Myanmar fighter jet first circled over the Rohingya camp along the zero line several times. Later, some eight to nine mortar shells were fired from the jet at midnight.  After that, the Rohingyas started crying and screaming in fear. Several shells fired from the fighter jet fell into the forests and paddy fields on both sides of the Rohingya camp.

Earlier on 16 September, a Rohingya teenager was killed by a mortar shell fired from Myanmar, which fell in the camp along the zero line. Five others were injured in the incident.