Border security forces in western Burma's Arakan State have arrested nearly 100 Muslim men in Maungdaw Township and accused them of belonging to a terrorist ring linked to the Taliban, according to sources.
A source close to the border security forces, known locally as Nasaka, told The Irrawaddy that the men were arrested earlier this month after they allegedly held a meeting in the village of Kamaungseik to plot terrorist activities.
“A seal and documents seized at the time of the arrest identified them as members of the Taliban. That's why they were arrested for having connections with the militant group and are now under investigation at Nasaka's headquarters,” said the source.
“The army didn't even know about the meeting, so the tactical commander said he would take action against township and ward chairmen. Nasaka has stepped up its security while it continues to search for alleged members of the group in the area,” the source added.
According to Narinjara, an independent Arakenese news agency based in Bangladesh, a Taliban militant known as Moulivi Harun gave secret training in combat and bomb-making deep in the jungles of northern Maungdaw on the Burma-Bangladesh border last February. Harun has not yet been arrested and is believed to be hiding out in the jungles on the Bangladesh side of the border, Narinjara reported.
“Nasaka told us about Moulivi Harun, who entered the country from Bangladesh and had given training. We are still seeking further details about him and the training,” said Khaing Mrat Kyaw, the editor of Narinjara.
Locals in the area told The Irrawaddy that their movements have been severely restricted since the arrests. They said the authorities have imposed frequent security checks on travelers and taken other measures aimed at preventing people from coming or going freely from predominantly Muslim areas.
“A curfew has been in place in urban areas and villages in Maungdaw since last week,” said one local resident. “People can be shot if they go out after 10 pm.”
According to the Maungmadaw resident, among those arrested were Sein Win, the former village head of Kamaungseik, and his successor and brother, Zaw Win, who have both reportedly been supporting the activities of a militant network in the area.
Maungmadaw and the other townships now being subjected to increased security are home to large numbers of Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority not recognized by Burma's ruling regime as Burmese citizens.