It has been reported that yesterday (April 2, 2024) around 9pm, Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) terrorists, known as the Bawm Party created by the Bangladesh Army, attacked Sonali Bank in Ruma Upazila of Bandarban district and looted about Tk 1 crore and 60 lakh and snatched away 14 weapons and 415 rounds of ammunition from the security guards. While leaving, the terrorists also kidnapped the bank's Manager of Ruma branch Nizam Uddin.

Immediately after this incident, today (April 3) at around 12 noon, another armed group of KNF terrorists attacked more two banks, Sonali Bank and Krishi Bank of Thanchi upazila of Bandarban district, and looted all the money.

Jaorin Lusai led the Sonali Bank robbery in Ruma. It is to be noted that just a month ago, KNF held a meeting with the peace committee led by Bandarban Hill District Council Chairman Kyaw Shwe Hla Marma along with representatives of the Army and DGFI. KNF promised not to commit any terrorist activities in the meeting.

Less than a month after the meeting, the KNF's successful and dramatic robbery of banks in front of members of the armed security forces has raised many questions.

The question of whether DGFI or the army are involved in this robbery of KNF is also being raised due to various reasons.

According to the sources, an armed group of only 13 people, led by Jaorin Lusai (42), self-style captain of KNF, conducted the robbery at the Ruma Upazila branch of Sonali Bank at around 9 pm. Next to this bank there are Ruma Upazila Parishad office, Ruma Upazila Executive Officer's residence and Ruma Bazaar. Ruma Bazar army camp is just one kilometre away from the bank.

The source said that the money was brought to the Sonali Bank branch by vehicle from Bandarban Sadar shortly before the incident (approximately 9 pm). In the presence of the Branch Manager of bank Nizam Uddin and 14 armed police and Ansar members on security duty, the bank employees and officials started counting the money. Just then a woman KNF member entered the bank and almost immediately some armed KNF members surrounded the bank and the rest entered the bank and ransacked it.

It is reported that the KNF terrorists first snatched 14 weapons (2 SMGs, 4 shotguns and 8 Chinese rifles) and 415 rounds of ammunition from the police and Ansar members and then ransacked and looted about Tk 1 crore and 60 lakhs. According to another source, the amount is 2 crores.

After looting and vandalising for about half an hour, the terrorists abducted the branch manager of the bank along with the money, weapons and bullets. As of writing this report, almost 16 hours have passed but no trace of the abducted bank manager has been found.

Various questions

After the incident, the question arose that how did the KNF terrorists know when the money was taken from Bandarban Sadar to Ruma branch? It is not possible for the KNF to know unless someone reliable informs them. This open robbery would not have been successful in such a populated place if it had not been pre-informed and pre-planned. Why did 14 armed police and Ansar members not try to resist only 13 terrorists? Even though the terrorists stayed at the spot for half an hour, why didn't the army come forward immediately even from a distance of only one kilometre? As a result, the question is coming to many that whether the army or DGFI and any employees of the bank itself were involved in this incident?

It should also be noted that the question is being raised by many people that whether the army and DGFI have a plan of support and conspiracy behind such terrorist activities of KNF terrorists in recent times?

It is to be noted that on November 5, 2023, the KNF held its first meeting with the peace committee headed by Bandarban Hill District Council Chairman Kyaw Shwe Hla Marma through the mediation of the Army and DGFI. One of the points of consensus at that meeting was that the KNF and the army would not attack each other during the dialogue. The latest 3rd time meeting with peace committee was held at Bethel Para in Ruma in presence of representatives of Army and DGFI on 5th March 2024.

It has been observed that immediately after the meeting, the KNF terrorists intensified their terrorist activities including extortion, beating people, threats and kidnapping. But the army, the administration did not take any action against them. Locals allege that the KNF terrorists have now become more reckless due to the connivance of the Army and DGFI.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that after the robbery of Ruma Branch Sonali Bank, the army has started search operation and interrogation and harassment of people in different areas of Ruma. According to initial reports, the people of Munnoam Para, Bethel Para, Happyhill Para, Bachtlong Para, Artha Para etc. have fled to other places due to fear of army oppression and harassment.

Robbery in Thanchi

On Wednesday (April 3, 2024) at 12.08 pm, Sonali Bank and Krishi Bank of Thanchi Upazila were attacked by KNF. In this incident, KNF terrorists were able to loot around Tk 19 lakhs from two banks. Out of these Tk 15 lakhs from Sonali Bank and 4 lakhs from Krishi Bank.

It is reported that 2-3 KNF members in plain clothes were earlier roaming around the bank.

Just 10 minutes before the bank robbery, 1 army jeep entered the market and shortly after that, an armed group of KNF numbering 40 entered Thanchi market via Baktalai road. After reaching the market, they, aiming at the security guards, entered into Sonali Bank and Krishi Bank and took away the mobile phones of the customers and employees of the bank. Later, a total of Tk 19 lakh was looted from the bank's cash box. While leaving they fired 4-5 rounds of blank bullets.

It is reported that the banks are located between Thanchi Police Camp and BGB Camp.

It should be noted that the Kuki-Chin National Development Organization (KNDO) was formed in 2008 under the leadership of Nathan Bawm and Vanchunliam Bawm with the help of the Army and DGFI. Later in 2019, with the patronization of the army and DGFI, the name of KNDO was changed to KNF and it started armed operations. Later, when news of an Islamic militant group being given shelter and military training in exchange for money spread, the army was forced to launch an operation against the KNF under international pressure.

But despite this, the army and DGFI continued to support the KNF tactically. The incident of bank robbery of three branches near the army and police camp on April 2-3 would have not been possible for the KNF without the help of the army and DGFI, many concerned expressed their opinion.

First published in Hill Voice.

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