Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army
Participant in the Northern Rakhine State clashes
Logo of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.png
Logo of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army
Active 2013 (2013)[1] – present
9 October 2016 (2016-10-09) – present (militarily)
Ideology Rohingya nationalism
Islamism (denied by ARSA)[2]
Leaders Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi[3][4]
Area of operations Northern Rakhine State,
Bangladesh–Myanmar border

~200 (January 2018)[5][6]

500[7][8]–600[9] (2016–17 estimates)


Battles and wars

Rohingya conflict

Designated as a terrorist organisation by

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Burmese: အာရ်ကန်ရိုဟင်ဂျာ ကယ်တင်ရေးတပ်မတော်; abbreviated ARSA),[11][12][13] also known by its former name Harakah al-Yaqin (meaning Faith Movement in English),[14][15] is a Rohingya insurgent group active in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. According to a December 2016 report by the International Crisis Group, it is led by Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, a Rohingya man who was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and grew up in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.[3][4] Other members of its leadership include a committee of Rohingya émigrés in Saudi Arabia.[16]

Myanmar's Anti-Terrorism Central Committee declared ARSA a terrorist group on 25 August 2017 in accordance with the country's counter-terrorism law.[17][18] The Burmese government has alleged that the group is involved with and subsidised by foreign Islamists, despite there being no firm evidence proving such allegations.[19] ARSA released a statement on 28 August 2017, calling government allegations against it as "baseless" and claiming that its main purpose is to defend the rights of Rohingyas.[20]


Prior to 2016[edit]

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG) and a spokesperson for ARSA, the group was formed in 2013, following the 2012 Rakhine State riots, under the name Harakah al-Yaqin (translated as Faith Movement in English).[16][1] A former member of ARSA described how he was recruited by the group's leader, Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, three years prior to the attacks in October 2016. Ataullah had approached villagers, asking for five to ten recruits to join his group and telling them that the time had come to "stop the mistreatment of the Rohingya people". Prior to the October 2016 attacks, ARSA had merely patrolled villages armed with bamboo sticks, making sure that villagers prayed at mosques.[21] According to Rohingya locals and Burmese security officials, the group had again began approaching Rohingya men from various villages for recruitment six months prior to its first attack in October 2016, this time with the intention of training them across the border in Bangladesh for a future attack in Myanmar.[19]


In October 2016, under the name Harakah al-Yaqin, the group claimed responsibility for attacks on Burmese border posts along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, which left 9 border officers and 4 soldiers dead.[22][23] The Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) announced on 15 November 2016 that a total of 69 insurgents had been killed by security forces in the recent fighting.[24] The ICG reported on 14 December 2016 that in interviews, the leaders of ARSA claimed to have links to private individuals in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The ICG also claimed in unconfirmed reports that Rohingya villagers had been "secretly trained" by Afghan and Pakistani fighters.[3][25]


Burmese state media reported on 22 June 2017 that three insurgents had been killed by security forces in a raid on an insurgent camp supposedly belonging to ARSA, as part of a two-day "area clearance operation" by the government. Authorities confiscated gunpowder, ski masks and wooden rifles used for training.[26][27]

In July 2017, the Burmese government accused ARSA of murdering 34 to 44 civilians and kidnapping 22 others in reprisal attacks against those ARSA have perceived as government collaborators. ARSA denied the accusations.[26][28]

On 25 August 2017, the group claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks on police posts and an attempted raid on an army base. The government announced a death toll of 77 Rohingya insurgents and 12 security forces in northern Maungdaw following the attacks. The government stated that they had attacked a police station in the Maungdaw District with a handmade bomb alongside the coordinated attacks on several police posts. ARSA claimed they were taking "defensive actions" in 25 different locations and accused government soldiers of raping and killing civilians. The group also claimed that Rathedaung had been under a blockade for more than two weeks, starving the Rohingya, and that the government forces were preparing to do the same in Maungdaw.[29] Over 4,000 ethnic Rakhines fled their villages on 26 August 2017, as fighting between ARSA and the Tatmadaw escalated.[30] ARSA was also blamed for the Kha Maung Seik massacre on the same day by the Myanmar Army.[31]

In late August 2017, the Burmese government accused ARSA of killing 12 civilians, including Hindus and Muslims, some of whom were suspected by ARSA of being government informants.[32][33][34] On 24 September 2017, Myanmar's military accused ARSA of killing 28 Hindus in Ye Baw Kya village in the previous month after they uncovered their bodies in a mass grave.[35] ARSA released a statement on 28 August 2017, calling government allegations against it as "baseless" and stating that ARSA only seeks to defend Rohingyas and their rights.[20] An ARSA spokesman also denied allegations that it was behind the killings and accused Buddhist nationalists of spreading lies to divide Hindus and Muslims.[36] Bangladesh meanwhile has proposed joint military operations with Myanmar against ARSA.[37]

A one-month unilateral ceasefire was declared by ARSA on 9 September 2017, in an attempt to allow aid groups and humanitarian workers safe access into northern Rakhine State.[38][39][40] In a statement, the group urged the government to lay down their arms and agree to their ceasefire, which would have been in effect from 10 September until 9 October (the one-year anniversary of the first attacks on Burmese security forces by ARSA). The government rejected the ceasefire, saying that they do not "negotiate with terrorists". Zaw Htay, the spokesperson for the State Counsellor's office, stated, "We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists."[41][42] ARSA responded on 7 October 2017 that they would respond to any peace initiatives proposed by Myanmar's government, but added that their one-month unilateral ceasefire was about to end.[43] Despite the ceasefire ending on 9 October, the government stated that there were no signs of any new attacks.[44]

On 9 November 2017, Myint Khyine, the Burmese secretary of the Immigration and Population Department, blamed the deaths of 18 village leaders in the last three months on ARSA in Muslim-majority Maungdaw and Buthidaung. The victims were village leaders who helped the Immigration and Population Department issue national verification cards to Rohingya residents.[45]

Bangladesh's Minister of Road Transport and Bridges, Obaidul Quader, stated during a reception organised by the nation's deputy high commission in Kolkata that his country was investigating allegations that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had established links with ARSA.[46]


ARSA claimed responsibility for an ambush carried out on 5 January 2018 in the village of Turaing,[47][48] which reportedly injured six members of Myanmar's security forces and a civilian driver.[49][50][51]

Ideology and structure[edit]

ARSA leader Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi stated in a video posted online, "Our primary objective under ARSA is to liberate our people from dehumanising oppression perpetrated by all successive Burmese regimes".[52] The group has consistently insisted that it is an ethno-nationalist insurgent group and have denied being a jihadist group.[1] ARSA has also denied allegations that they are an Islamist group, claiming they are secular[2] and "have no links to terrorist groups or foreign Islamists".[11] However, ARSA has attempted to obtain fatwas (religious rulings) from foreign Muslim clerics in the past, in order to legitimise their actions against the Burmese government.[53]

In contrast to other insurgent groups in Myanmar, ARSA is not organised like a paramilitary. While other groups have military ranks and uniforms, most members of ARSA have appeared in videos wearing civilian clothes. The group is also ill-equipped;[54][55] it was reported that during their attacks in Maungdaw District on 25 August, most of ARSA's fighters were armed with machetes and bamboo sticks. The local authorities responded with automatic machine gunfire, heavily outmatching ARSA's weapons.[21] Analysts have compared the tactics used by ARSA to those used by insurgent groups fighting in southern Thailand, namely crossing the border from one country to another to launch small scale attacks, then retreating back across the border to a community that shares a similar ethnic and/or religious background.[8]

Accusations against ARSA[edit]

The Myanmar government alleged in a statement that ARSA killed four Muslims, including a village head and a government informant, on 25 August 2017. The next day on 26 August, another Muslim village head and a Hindu child were allegedly killed when ARSA insurgents fired at a monastery. In addition, six Hindus were stated to have been killed when the insurgents attacked a Hindu family.[34] The Office of Myanmar's State Counsellor also blamed ARSA for the killings of five Daingnets on 26 August[56] and seven Mro people on 31 August.[57]

The mass-graves of 28 Hindus were found by Myanmar's security forces on 24 September 2017 near the village of Ye Baw Kya,[58] with 17 more bodies found on the next day.[59] Three relatives of the deceased said that masked men marched 100 Hindus away from the village before slitting their throats and pushing them into a hole. The relatives recognised some of the attackers as Rohingya Muslims, who told their victims they should not be in possession of official identity cards, which were issued by the government to Hindus but not to Muslims.[60] After the discovery of the bodies, the Myanmar government claimed the victims were killed by ARSA insurgents.[60][61][62] An ARSA spokesman denied the allegation that it was behind the killings and accused Buddhist nationalists of spreading lies to divide Hindus and Muslims.[36]

On 9 November, Myint Khyine, the secretary of the Immigration and Population Department, blamed the deaths of 18 village leaders in the past three months in Maungdaw and Buthidaung, on ARSA. The village leaders helped the department to issue national verification cards to Rohingya villagers.[63]

On 22 May 2018, Amnesty International released a report claiming it had evidence that ARSA rounded up and killed as many as 99 Hindu civilians on 25 August 2017, the same day that ARSA launched a massive attack against Myanmar's security forces.[64][65] The report alleged that ARSA insurgents armed with guns and swords were responsible for at least one reported massacre of Hindus in northern Rakhine State. Survivors claimed that in the village of Kha Maung Seik, ARSA insurgents killed the men, whilst the women were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. It was also alleged in the report that statements given by Hindus immediately after the massacre were false, and that they were threatened by ARSA into blaming Rakhine Buddhists for the killings.[66]

Press statements[edit]

ARSA periodically releases press statements online, in documents and videos posted to its Twitter account. Unlike other insurgent groups in Myanmar, most of ARSA's written statements are exclusively in English, rather than in the group's native tongue (in this case, Rohingya).[8]

On 17 October 2016, ARSA (then under the name Harakah al-Yaqin) released a press statement online. In a roughly five minute video, the group's leader, Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, flanked by armed fighters reads from a sheet of paper:

Citizens of Arakan [State], citizens of Myanmar, and citizens of the world.

It is no longer a secret that the Rohingyas are the most persecuted ethnic minority on earth. Throughout the last six decades, we have been subjected to genocidal mass-killings, and all kinds of atrocities at the hands of successive tyrannical Burmese regimes.

Yet the world has chosen to ignore us! Then again, the "resourceful" world has apparently failed to save us!

We [Harakah al-Yaqin], the sons of Arakan[ese] soil, who are compelled by our dire situation to follow our own destiny through uprising, self-determination and self-defence, stand as an independent body which is free from all elements of terror in any nature, seek fundamental but legitimate rights and other [forms of] justice for all Arakanese, including our fellow innocent Rohingyas and other civilians dying from the continuous military assaults.

We categorically state that our people have chosen to free themselves from their oppressors, from the tragic deaths in the Bay of Bengal, in the Thai jungles and at the hands of human traffickers. We have also resolved to defend our mothers, sisters, elderly, children and ourselves.

We shall not rest until all our desired goals are achieved with the genuine help of the civilised world.

Six other videos were released online by the group between 10 and 27 October 2016.[67]

The group released a press statement on 29 March 2017 under a new name, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). The document included demands made to the Burmese government and a warning that if they were not met, there would be further attacks.[68]


  1. ^ a b c Winchester, Mike. "Birth of an ethnic insurgency in Myanmar". Retrieved 2017-09-13.
  2. ^ a b Tarabay, Jamie (6 December 2017). "Who are Myanmar's militants? Five questions about ARSA". CNN. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b c J, Jacob (15 December 2016). "Rohingya militants in Rakhine have Saudi, Pakistan links, think tank says".
  4. ^ a b Millar, Paul (16 February 2017). "Sizing up the shadowy leader of the Rakhine State insurgency". Southeast Asia Globe Magazine. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  5. ^ Olarn, Kocha; Griffiths, James (11 January 2018). "Myanmar military admits role in killing Rohingya found in mass grave". CNN. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  6. ^ "'Beyond comprehension': Myanmar admits killing Rohingya". 11 January 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  7. ^ CNN, Katie Hunt. "Myanmar Air Force helicopters fire on armed villagers in Rakhine state". CNN. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Lintner, Bertil (20 September 2017). "The truth behind Myanmar's Rohingya insurgency". Asia Times. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  9. ^ Bhaumik, Subir (1 September 2017). "Myanmar has a new insurgency to worry about". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  10. ^ Kyaw Thu, Mratt; Slow, Oliver (28 August 2017). "With ARSA attacks, northern Rakhine plunges into new, darker chapter". Frontier Myanmar. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  11. ^ a b Freeman, Joe. "Myanmar's Rohingya Insurgency Strikes Pragmatic Note". VOA. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Rohingya 'Army' stresses right to self-defence in first statement". Frontier Myanmar. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Myanmar's armed Rohingya militants deny terrorist links". Fox News. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  14. ^ "Myanmar: A New Muslim Insurgency in Rakhine State". Crisis Group. 15 December 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  15. ^ Lewis, Simon (14 December 2016). "Myanmar's Rohingya insurgency has links to Saudi, Pakistan: report". Reuters. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  16. ^ a b "An army crackdown sends thousands fleeing in Myanmar". The Economist. 31 August 2017. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  17. ^ "The Republic of the Union of Myanmar Anti-terrorism Central Committee Statement". National Reconciliation and Peace Centre. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  18. ^ "Exclusive: Is this the final confrontation for the Rohingya?". Dhaka Tribune. 27 August 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  19. ^ a b Lone, Wa; Lewis, Simon; Das, Krishna N. (9 March 2017). "Myanmar Says Foreign Islamists Instigated Series of Attacks". Reuters. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  20. ^ a b "Thousands of panic-stricken civilians flee fighting in Myanmar's northwest". Reuters. Japan Times. 28 August 2017. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  21. ^ a b Head, Jonathan (11 October 2017). "The truth about Rohingya militants". BBC News. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  22. ^ "Myanmar policemen killed in Rakhine border attack". BBC News. 9 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Rakhine unrest leaves four Myanmar soldiers dead". BBC News. 12 October 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  24. ^ Slodkowski, Antoni (15 November 2016). "Myanmar army says 86 killed in fighting in northwest". Reuters India. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  25. ^ "Rohingya insurgency a 'game-changer' for Myanmar". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  26. ^ a b McDonald, Taylor (22 June 2017). "Rohingya 'insurgent' camp raided - Asean Economist". Asean Economist. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  27. ^ "Myanmar forces kill 3 in raid on 'terrorist training camps': State media - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  28. ^ Lewis, Simon (20 July 2017). "Myanmar sees insurgents behind Rohingya killings in northwest". Reuters. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  29. ^ "Deadly clashes erupt in Myanmar's restive Rakhine state". Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  30. ^ "Over 4000 ethnic Rakhine have fled their villages as fighting between terrorists and Tatmadaw". 29 August 2017. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  31. ^ Heidler, Scott (29 September 2017). "Fear as Myanmar violence hits Bengali Hindus". Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera Media Network. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  32. ^ "Ongoing Myanmar clashes leave 96 dead, including 6 civilians". ABC News. 27 August 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  33. ^ "Terrorist attacks escalate in Myanmar's northern state". Xinhua News Agency. 27 August 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  34. ^ a b "Death toll tops 100 in Myanmar's Rakhine as bloodshed continues". Kyodo News. 28 August 2017. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  35. ^ "Mass grave of 28 Hindus found in Myanmar: army". Agence France-Presse. 24 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  36. ^ a b "Myanmar says bodies of 28 Hindu villagers found in Rakhine State". Reuters. 24 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  37. ^ "Bangladesh offers Myanmar army aid against Rohingya rebels". Agence-France Presse. Yahoo! News. 29 August 2017.
  38. ^ Judah, Jacob (10 September 2017). "Myanmar: Rohingya insurgents declare month-long ceasefire". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  39. ^ "ARSA fighters declare truce amid Rohingya crisis". Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  40. ^ "Rohingya rebels in Myanmar declare truce". BBC News. 9 September 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  41. ^ "Hundreds dead in Myanmar as the Rohingya crisis explodes again." September 10, 2017, Washington Post in Chicago Tribune retrieved September 12, 2017
  42. ^ Smith, Karen; Marilia, Brocchetto. "Myanmar rejects Rohingya ceasefire offer". CNN. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  43. ^ "Rohingya insurgents open to peace but Myanmar ceasefire ending". Reuters. 7 October 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  44. ^ "Myanmar takes first step to ease Buddhist-Muslim tension". Reuters. 7 October 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  45. ^ "Militants Kill Village Leaders Who Worked on Myanmar's Verification Card Program". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  46. ^ Ghosal, Avijit (21 December 2017). "Dhaka probing ISI-Rohingiya terror link, says Bangladesh minister Obaidul Quader". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  47. ^ Paddock, Richard C. (7 January 2018). "Rohingya Militants in Myanmar Claim Responsibility for Attack". Archived from the original on 7 January 2018. In a statement posted on Twitter, Atta Ullah, who identifies himself as commander of the rebel group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, said the attack on Friday morning in Maungdaw had been staged in response to efforts by Myanmar’s security forces to drive the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in a Buddhist-majority country, from the area.
  48. ^ @ARSA_Official (7 January 2018). "PRESS STATEMENT [07/01/2018] -Turaing Ambush against the #Burmese Terrorist Army in #Maungdaw -We are here to salvage Indigenous #Rohingya ethnic community with our best capacities" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  49. ^ "Seven Wounded in Landmine Blast on Military Vehicle in Myanmar's Rakhine State". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  50. ^ "Insurgents attack Myanmar soldiers in Rakhine state, wounding six". The Japan Times. 7 January 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  51. ^ "Insurgents attack Myanmar soldiers in Rakhine, wounding 6". USA TODAY. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  52. ^ "Southeast Asia's Newest Rebel Group Calls Bangladesh 'Great Neighbor'". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 2017-09-13.
  53. ^ "Pakistan-born leader of Arsa militants trained in modern guerilla warfare". The Straits Times. 11 September 2017. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  54. ^ Erdoos, Faisal (13 September 2017). "ARSA: Who are the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army?". Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  55. ^ "Machetes vs machine guns: Rohingya militants outgunned in Myanmar". Hindustan Times. 7 September 2017. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
  56. ^ "110 Killed as Rohingya rebels continue to clash with Myanmar army". EFE. 29 August 2017.
  57. ^ "7 more ethnic people killed in Myanmar's northern state, death toll rises to 110". Xinhua. 31 August 2017.
  58. ^ "Mass grave of 28 Hindus found in Myanmar: army". Yahoo! News. Agence France-Presse. 24 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  59. ^ "17 more bodies found as Myanmar unearths mass Hindu graves". Agence France-Presse. 25 September 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  60. ^ a b Tun, Soe Zeya (27 September 2017). "Slaughtered Hindus a testament to brutality of Myanmar's conflict". Reuters. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  61. ^ Press, Associated. "Bodies of 28 Hindu Women and Boys Found in Mass Graves". Time (magazine). Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  62. ^ "'Mass Hindu grave' found in Myanmar". BBC News. 2017-09-25. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  63. ^ "Militants Kill Village Leaders Who Worked on Myanmar's Verification Card Program". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  64. ^ "Amnesty: Rohingya fighters killed scores of Hindus in Myanmar". 22 May 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  65. ^ Yee, Tan Hui (22 May 2018). "Rohingya militants massacred Hindus: Amnesty International report". The Straits Times. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  66. ^ "Myanmar: New evidence reveals Rohingya armed group massacred scores in Rakhine State". Amnesty International. 22 May 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  67. ^ McPherson, Poppy (17 November 2016). "'It will blow up': fears Myanmar's deadly crackdown on Muslims will spiral out of control". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  68. ^ "Statement of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army". Retrieved 5 April 2017.

External links[edit]