The terror outfit Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has roots in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and there is not much evidence to prove that ARSA has any ties to the transnational jihadist network.ARSA's leadership was born and brought up in Karachi, Pakistan and moved to Saudi Arabia. They raised funds mostly from Rohingya's living in Pakistan and Middle-East.
Now it is come to surface, that the terror organisation with the poor fund was unable to launch any large scale skirmishes with Myanmar troops. Long ago they were able to make quite a number of hit-and-run operations, that activities have been significantly neutralised after Myanmar troop's crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.
Well, the Myanmar government officially labelled ARSA as "extremist Bengali [Bangalee] terrorists," warning that its goal is to establish an Islamic state in the region.
The exodus of one million Rohingyas from restive Rakhine State has also brought the ARSA members into Bangladesh territory living in squalid refugee camps.
In the camps, violent gangs who are members of ARSA, prey on people. There is an incentive to join militants because it accords them and their families a degree of security and additional resources.
In a rare interview given to international media, Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, commonly known simply as Ataullah, said that ARSA would be "open war" and "continued [armed] resistance" until "citizenship rights were reinstated."
Ataullah denied any links to the ISIS in his 18 August 2017 video. He is reported to have turned his back on support from Pakistani-based militants.
Security experts in Bangladesh and abroad explains that ARSA has ideological differences and has reason to distance itself from transnational jihadist network, which would compel Bangladeshi security forces to move against them.
The plight of the Rohingya has been referenced by international jihadists in the past. Abdullah Azzam, the preacher who inspired Osama Bin Laden, raised the Rohingya issue in the 1980s. Al-Qaeda showed cursory interest in the 1990s.
In the July 2014 speech in which he declared the establishment of a caliphate, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi referenced the Rohingya as among "oppressed" Muslim populations worldwide that ISIS was looking to defend.
In 2016, the alleged chief of Islamic State in Bangladesh, Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif (killed by Bangladesh counter-terrorism unit), in Dabiq interview that IS sought to turn Bangladesh into a launching pad for attacks in India and Myanmar.
Harkatul Jihad al-Islam (HuJI) and Arakan leaders have been photographed on the stage with Lashkar e-Taiba (LeT) leaders, including Hafiz Saeed. The LET's charitable arms, Jamat-ud Dawa and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation support the Rohingya refugees in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh and Indian security forces believe that the Aqa Mul Mujahidin (AMM) received funding and support from Pakistan's ISI via the LET.
Indian authorities are investigating whether a little-known Rohingya militant group with links to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
For obvious reasons, none of the global terror networks did set foot in the region. The territory is too hot to handle, as some experts explain.
The recruiters from sleeping-cells disseminated a message that joining ARSA was a Farj (a religious obligation).
However, ARSA remains focused on recruitment and indoctrination, followed by establishing small units and engaging in rudimentary military training.
Often news breaks-out from Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar and Bandarban of robbers, dacoits, and armed gangs were killed in an encounter by elite anti-crime forces. Most of the slain victims are radicalised Rohingya militants.
Finally, ARSA's military capabilities remain poor, their ragtag foot soldiers are more engaged in extortion, loot and plunder in the refugee camps. The smugglers, drug traders, and gunrunners employ the armed groups for escort services in the region.
There has been no militancy activity for quite some time, and it is unlikely there will be any in the immediate future.
Thus ARSA becomes a toothless tiger in the western frontier.
First published in The New Nation, on 24 February 2020
Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award. Twitter @saleemsamad, Email: email@example.com