Massive refugee camp blaze was ‘planned sabotage’ – investigators

At least 12,000 people were left without shelter following the inferno in Bangladesh

A fire which left thousands of Rohingya people homeless earlier this month at the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh was a “planned act of sabotage” orchestrated by a criminal gang seeking control of the facility, a panel investigating the blaze has said.

An investigation has determined that the fire began at several locations in the camp simultaneously, according to government official Abu Sufian, who is heading a seven-member team probing the incident.

“At least five places caught fire within a short period of time,” Safian told Reuters on Sunday, also detailing that there had been clashes between rival gangs within the camp the previous day. Some refugees were also prevented from attempting to extinguish the blaze, he said.

“We recommend further investigation by the law-enforcement agency to identify the groups behind the incident,” Safian added.

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Fire rips through world’s largest refugee camp

No casualties were reported following the March 5 inferno, which ripped through the camp in Cox’s Bazar, a southeastern border district, destroying around 2,800 temporary structures and leaving more than 12,000 refugees without shelter. It also wiped out key infrastructure within the camp, including schools and medical clinics.

It began at 2:30 pm local time and burned for several hours, before being brought under control in the evening. Initial reports from the scene suggested that the blaze was exacerbated by gas cookers inside makeshift kitchens in the camp.

The facility – which is cited as being the largest of its kind in the world – provides shelter to more than a million Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar, mostly in August 2017, amid claims of systemic discrimination and targeted violence against the Muslim ethnic minority.

Fires are a regular occurrence at the camp, with 222 such incidents recorded between January 2021 and December 2022. In March 2021, 15 people died and around 50,000 were displaced in the aftermath of another blaze at a camp in the same settlement.

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