DHAKA: Bangladesh has detained and forcibly returned at least 90 Muslim Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar, as thousands of civilians from the ethnic minority area, on the other side of the border, attempt to escape from continuing violence that has killed scores of people.
At least 20 Rohingya were caught on Sunday and sent back after crossing the Naf river, a natural border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, Ariful Islam, a commander with Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), told AFP news agency.
Separately, a group of 70 Rohingya were also sent back by police late on Saturday, after they crossed the “zero line” border zone, where Myanmar soldiers earlier fired mortars and machine guns at Rohingya villagers, making the dangerous dash from Myanmar’s northern state of Rakhine.
The villagers were caught roughly four kilometres inside Bangladeshi territory, en route to a refugee camp in Kutupalong, where thousands of Rohingya already live in squalid conditions, said local police chief Abul Khaer.
“All 70 were detained and later pushed back to Myanmar by the border guards,” Khaer told AFP.
“They were pleading with us not to send them back to Myanmar,” another police officer said on condition of anonymity.
In its latest report on Sunday, the office of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, said the death toll from the clashes between security forces and Rohingya rebels that started on Thursday has reached 96 – mostly alleged Rohingya attackers but also 12 security personnel.
Myanmar’s government has accused armed men from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) of carrying out the deadly attack on police outposts, which sparked the latest violence.