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2 killed as mortar shells from Myanmar lands in Bangladesh

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Dhaka, Feb 5 (PTI) At least two people were killed when mortar shells from the Myanmar side landed across the border in a Bangladeshi village while 95 Burmese paramilitary border guards fled their posts and took refuge in this country in the past two days, officials said on Monday.

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“One of the two slain people is a Bangladeshi woman while the other is a Rohingya man. They were killed on Sunday in the Japaitali area near the border,” said Shah Mujahid Uddin, Bandarban Deputy Commissioner and Administrative Chief.

The police said a 50-year-old woman was serving food to a 58-year-old ethnic Rohingya daily wage labourer when the shell hit the area, instantly killing the two.

Meanwhile, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) officials said 27 more paramilitary Border Guard Police of Myanmar overnight crossed the border as fierce gunfights continued on the other side of the frontier between the government troops and rebel Arakan Army.

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“The number of BGP personnel in our (BGB) custody now stands at 95. Most of them brought their weapons along with themselves,” a BGB spokesman told reporters here.

He said several of them crossed the border with bullet wounds and were being treated at different hospitals, including health facilities in Rohingya camps.

Doctors have said several of them were in critical condition.

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Officials and residents at the bordering villages said Myanmar military helicopters continued strafing at Tombry region to support the government troops during their encounters with the rebel insurgents in the Rakhine state.

Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which has a 270-kilometre border with Bangladesh, has witnessed frequent clashes since last November when the Arakan Army fighters ended a ceasefire largely enforced since a 2021 coup.

Monday’s death was, however, the first such incident of casualties inside Bangladesh.

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Security officials called unprecedented the fleeing of the Myanmar BGP forces who abandoned their posts amid the insurgency in their land to take refuge to their BGB counterpart across the border.

“Nearly a company of paramilitary troops crossed the international boundary and laid down their weapons to Bangladeshi border guards. This may have deep implications on the geopolitics of the region for which Bangladesh needs to prepare itself,” security analyst retired brigadier general Sakhawat Hossain said.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Sunday said the border guards from neighbouring Myanmar's Rakhine state had "entered our territory for self-protection" and Bangladesh received them as a humanitarian gesture.

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“The BGB informed the development to their Myanmar counterparts,” a BGB spokesman said.

Bangladesh’s Refugee, Relief and Repatriation (RRR) commissioner Mohammad Mizanur Rahman said the fierce conflict forced over 400 Buddhist Rakhine people to take refuge near the border but the BGB declined to allow them to enter Bangladeshi territory yet.

Dhaka, on Sunday, expressed concerns as the skirmishes in its borders with Myanmar affected Bangladesh frontlines with Road Transport Minister and Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader seeking Chinese intervention to de-escalate the conflict because of Beijing’s close contacts with Burmese authorities.

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“The internal war is their (Myanmar’s) domestic concern. But when the sound of gunfights is heard at the border, naturally it creates panic in the public mind. We, therefore, expect Beijing’s intervention,” Quader told the media after he met with the Chinese envoy.

The BGB asked residents to stay indoors or move cautiously as the skirmishes in southern and northern parts of Tombru, also known by the same name in Myanmar, appeared to be fiercest so far.

Tombru is located in Ghungdhum union of Naikhhangchhari upazila of Bandarban district.

The Arakan Army in October last year allied with two other insurgent groups and launched a joint offensive across northern Myanmar, seizing vital trade hubs on the Chinese border.

The alliance last month announced a China-mediated ceasefire which, however, does not apply to areas near the Bangladesh and Indian borders.

Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar stretches 271.0 kilometres, from the tri-point with India in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south.

Bangladesh played a critical role in sheltering over a million Muslim minority Rohingyas who fled their home in Rakhine and took refuge in the country to evade persecution, particularly after a 2017 army crackdown.

The current crisis, however, has little to do with the Rohingyas.

Bangladesh won praise for the handling of the world’s biggest refugee crisis. At the same time, Dhaka repeatedly sought their repatriation to their homeland in Rakhine saying the Rohingyas were causing economic, social, security and environmental problems.

The issue is now the subject of a United Nations genocide investigation at the International Court of Justice. PTI AR PY PY PY

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