At least eight people were dead and scores injured after violent clashes broke out between two ethnic outfits in the rugged terrains of Bandarban district in Bangladesh, sparking panic and forcing locals to flee their homes, police said on Friday.
The incident took place on Thursday night in Rowangchhari upazila in Bangladesh’s south-eastern Bandarban District, which is a hotbed of insurgency.
“We have recovered eight bodies from the scene,” police officer Abdul Mannan said.
Mannan said the bodies were brought to the upazila headquarters on Friday for autopsy and other legal formalities.
Police said nearly 200 people fled their homes following the clashes, fearing violence among feuding groups, and took refuge at an army camp at Rowangchhari upazila.
The reason for the clashes is not known.
But police suspect the incident involved members of the newly-formed outfit called Kuki Chin Front (KNF), which is the break-away faction of the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF).
The UPDF is a regional political party based in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
Chakmas form the majority ethnic group in the party.
Formed in 1998, the group claims to seek a fully autonomous Hill Tracts through peaceful and democratic means.
Security officials said the KNF emerged as an armed group dominated mostly by the Bom ethnic community and reportedly formed an alliance with an Islamist militant group in the hills.
The KNF claims to be representing six of the 16 ethnic minority groups of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
They are demanding a separate state be formed with several sub-districts of two of the three hill districts.
“The KNF’s terrorist activities forced residents there to leave their abode and come to our (army) camp for temporary refuge. We have sheltered them and arranged their food with the help of civil administration,” Captain Fahim, an official of Bangladesh Army’s Bandarban Zone told journalists.
Bangladesh’s security agencies said a manhunt was underway to track down and arrest Nathan Bome, the KNF chief.
Meanwhile, authorities will maintain heightened security in the affected areas. In the event of further violence, they may enact movement-restrictive measures, such as imposing a curfew in the region, officials added.