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Rights groups, U.S. urge full probe of Rohingya leader's death

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was saddened by the murder and praised Mohibullah as a brave and fierce advocate for Rohingya rights

Rights groups and the U.S. government have called for a full investigation into the killing of a key Rohingya leader who was shot to death in a refugee camp in Bangladesh.

Mohibullah, who was known by one name, was shot by unknown attackers late September 29 at the Kutupalong refugee camp at Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar district, said Naimul Haque, a commander of the Armed Police Battalion in Cox’s Bazar. No groups claimed responsibility and it was not clear who was behind the attack.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was saddened by the murder and praised Mohibullah as a brave and fierce advocate for Rohingya rights.

“We urge a full and transparent investigation into his death with the goal of holding the perpetrators of this heinous crime accountable. We will honor his work by continuing to advocate for Rohingya and lift up the voices of members of the community in decisions about their future,” Blinken said in a statement.

Mohibullah, who was in his 40s, had served as a spokesman representing the Muslim ethnic group in international meetings. He visited the White House in 2019 for a meeting on religious freedom with then-President Donald Trump and spoke about the suffering and persecution faced by Rohingya people in Myanmar.

That same year, he was bitterly criticized by Bangladeshi media after he led a massive rally of 2,00,000 refugees to mark the second anniversary of the crackdown by Myanmar’s military that caused about 700,000 Rohingya, including Mohibullah, to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

Human Rights Watch called Mohibullah a vital voice for the Rohingya community. “He always defended the rights of the Rohingya to safe and dignified returns and to have a say in the decisions concerning their lives and future. His killing is a stark demonstration of the risks faced by those in the camps who speak up for freedom and against violence,” Meenakshi Ganguly, the rights group’s South Asia director, said in a statement.

“Mohibullah’s death undermines not only the struggle of Rohingya refugees for greater rights and protection in the refugee camps, but also their efforts to safely return to their homes in Myanmar. Bangladesh authorities should urgently investigate Mohibullah’s killing along with other attacks on Rohingya activists in the camps," she said.

Amnesty International condemned the killing and urged Bangladeshi authorities and the U.N. refugee agency to work together to ensure the protection of people in the camps, including refugees, activists and humanitarian workers from both the Rohingya and local community, many of whom have shared concerns about their safety.

“Violence in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar has been a growing problem," said Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner. "Armed groups operating drug cartels have killed people and held hostages. The authorities must take immediate action to prevent further bloodshed."

Overall, Bangladesh has been sheltering more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar after previous waves of persecution.

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