A new Islamist insurgent group is gaining ground in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine province, as per an international group that monitors conflict around the globe.
International Crisis Group (ICG) noted that Harakah Al Yakin (HAY) was responsible for a series of coordinated attacks on Myanmar’s border posts on Oct 9 and another deadly attack on a senior military officer on Nov 12.
Most of the group’s membership were Rohingya, a Muslim community whose members have accused Myanmar’s military forces of ‘genocide’.
According to the ICG report, HaY is headed by a committee of Rohingya migrants based out of Saudi Arabia and its ground forces are commanded by people with experience in “modern guerrilla war tactics.”
“It benefits from the legitimacy provided by local and international fatwas (religious judicial opinions) in support of its cause and enjoys considerable sympathy and backing from Muslims in northern Rakhine State, including several hundred locally trained recruits,” the report said.
Some Indian media outlets noted that the emergence of a new radical Islamist group would present New Delhi with a security challenge at its eastern border, as India shares a porous border with predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. The Rakhine state, where most of Myanmar’s Rohingya live, however doesn’t share a direct border with India.
There have also been fears expressed in sections of the press over the possibility of HaY trying to establish contacts with militant groups waging a war against the Indian government in Kashmir.
Terrorist figurehead Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, reportedly expressed solidarity with the cause of Rohingya Muslims during an address to his supporters last year.
Myanmar’s military forces have in recent months cracked down on militants in the rank of Rohingya community, with the offensive being significantly stepped up following attacks on the military.
Human rights groups have accused the government forces of not doing enough to differentiate militants from civilians, which they say has led to innocents being killed and many more being forced to flee to south-east Asia and Bangladesh among others destinations.
There were around 36,000 Rohingya Muslims living in India in 2015, according to an estimate by the UN Refugee Agency.
According to some accounts, Rohingya people in Myanmar have been legally persecuted since 1982 when the overhauling of country’s citizenship laws stripped them of their rights.