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KNF chief coordinator, 4 members nabbed

Published : 07 Apr 2024 11:00 PM

The joint forces arrested five suspected members of Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), including its chief coordinator, and recovered two firearms from a hill area in Sadar Upazila of Bandarban on Saturday, a day after they launched an operation against the armed group in the district.

Though the joint forces arrested five alleged members of KNF, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) disclosed the identity of only one, saying that he is the chief coordinator of the armed group.

On the other hand, Chief of Army Staff General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed on Sunday said, “Our law enforcers have managed to catch some terrorists on Saturday night. Some weapons were also recovered. A process has begun. Army can control the situation in Bandarban.”

KNF in a post on their Facebook page claimed, “The joint forces kidnapped the members of innocent Bawm family from Saranpara late night. He (Cheosim Bawm) is not a member of the central committee of KNF. He is a gardener.”

However, it could not be known yet whether the firearms recovered were among those snatched on April 2 from the police and Ansar members who were on duty at Sonali Bank in Ruma Upazila. It is mentionable that KNF miscreants snatched 14 guns on April 2. After bank robberies and attack on check-post by the armed group, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chowdhury

 Abdullah Al-Mamun, and Chief of Army Staff General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed visited Bandarban. 

In response to a rise in the criminal activities, including armed bank robbery and abduction of bank manager, Bangladesh Army, Police, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) have been carrying out a joint operation against the KNF since Friday night.

This initiative marks a significant escalation in efforts to maintain public safety, involving coordination among the forces.

Chief of Army Staff General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed visited Bandarban on Sunday and held an emergency meeting with senior army officers at Bandarban Army Region. Later, he also discussed next steps with journalists amid the ongoing situation.

General Shafiuddin Ahmed said, “The joint forces have already launched a combing operation. Various forces are jointly conducting this drive. To make the drive successful, we will not reveal all security needs, but we will reveal to the media what the public needs to know.”

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed us to take all necessary measures to ensure the security of our citizens. We are implementing overt and covert strategies to achieve tangible results from this operation.”

The army chief also said, “Peace talks were happening with the local administration. We did not conduct any operations against them during negotiations. They have sat for peace talks twice and said to sit for the third time. On Easter Sunday, gifts were sent to Ruma churches by the army. We believed them. We did not understand their conspiracy.”

RAB, however, arrested a KNF leader from Saranpara, a suburb of Bandarban district. He was identified as Cheosim Bawm (55), chief coordinator of KNF Bandarban, said Lt Col HM Sajjad Hossain, Commanding Officer of RAB-15.

At a press conference organised by RAB at the auditorium of Zilla Parishad, he said that Cheosim Bawm was arrested from his house in Saranpara on Saturday night. He is also a member of the KNF central committee and one of the close aides to KNF chief Nathan Bawm.

Several Bawm residents, who did not wish to be named, said that Shamim Mahfuz, chief coordinator of militant group Jamatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, had a meeting with KNF chief Nathan Bawm at Cheosim Bawm’s Saranpara residence. Such meetings were held at the end of 2021 and early 2022. 

According to them, militant group Sharqiya made a deal with the KNF at his house. The militants were being trained by the KNF members on a monthly contract of Tk 3 lakh.

KNF wants to establish ‘autonomous council’, not ‘separate state’

The Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) has been demanding since long an establishment of a ‘separate autonomous state’ in the Chattogram Hill Tracts. They wanted to form a separate state with nine upazilas. Later, the separatist armed group backtracked from their stance and demanded the establishment of an ‘autonomous council’ comprising seven upazilas in the region.

KNF made these demands on their social media Facebook page on Saturday night. 

The post mentions that they want to set up a council called ‘Kuki-Chin Territorial Council’ through which they want to keep the control of that region. Besides, the organisation demanded an armed force called Kuki-Chin Armed Battalion (KAB).

Their demands include ‘withdrawal of cases filed against KNF members. Bringing back the Bawm people living in Mizoram, India and the Khumi and Mro people in Paletua area of Myanmar.’

However, the situation is still tense in Ruma and Thanchi due to KNF violence. Residents are still panicked. On the other hand, the number of bank robbery cases increased to eight—four in Ruma and four in Thanchi. The accused in the cases are unknown.

Bandarban Superintendent of Police (SP) Saikat Shahin said that Sonali Bank officials, imam of the mosque, police and Ansar have filed a case as plaintiff in connection with the Ruma incident. Sonali Bank and Krishi Bank officials in Thanchi filed two cases and police filed two cases as plaintiffs. However, no one has been arrested in the cases so far.

However, there were no reports of fresh firing in Ruma and Thanchi. 

The joint forces operation is underway to nab the KNF miscreants. The operation is being carried out in the border areas of Ruma-Rowangchhari, Thanchi-Alikdam. Security forces officials have confirmed this.

Besides, since the bank robbery, transactions at all Sonali and Krishi Bank branches at Ruma, Thanchi and Rowangchhari have been suspended on security ground. 

The customers of these three upazilas can do transactions at Bandarban Sadar branch, said Md Afzal Karim, Managing Director of Sonali Bank PLC.