Homeland Security

Facebook Bans Rohingya Terror Group Behind Current Myanmar Crisis, Twitter Not So Much

During last week’s United Nations General Assembly, many condemnations of the ethnic cleansing of the largely Muslim Rohingya by the Myanmar military  were heard.

And there appears to be considerable evidence such ethnic cleansing is occurring — mainly the 400,000 Rohingya refugees that have streamed across the border into Bangladesh.

At the same time, there is emerging evidence of ethnic and religious cleansing of Hindus and Buddhists caused by the Saudi- and Pakistani-backed Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) terror group, which kicked off the crisis with attacks on Myanmar border posts on August 25 that killed dozens of Myanmar’s military personnel.

Those ARSA attacks were condemned by the U.S.

Several neighboring countries, including India, Malaysia and Bangladesh, are pointing out the ties between ARSA and international terror groups, including Al-Qaeda.

Funding, arms, and leadership for ARSA are coming from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Because of these terrorist activities, Facebook has shut down ARSA’s official account. Twitter, on the other hand, still continues to host the terror group.

Agence France-Presse reports:

Facebook said it has banned a Rohingya militant group from its site, designating it a ‘dangerous organisation’ as information on the deepening crisis is muddied by claims, counter-claims and hate speech on social media.

The social network is a key tool in the information war taking place over violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which has driven more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims from the country and sparked UN accusations of military-led “ethnic cleansing”.

Rohingya activists have used the platform to post alleged scenes of brutality from the conflict zone, where humanitarian and media access is severely restricted, while the army and government deliver near-daily updates on the crisis.

A Facebook spokeswoman told AFP late Wednesday it was not requested by the government to bar the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which remains active on Twitter.

In fact, ARSA continues to be active on Twitter:

As I reported earlier this month, the attacks by ARSA targeting Myanmar military personnel and subsequent attacks on Buddhists and Hindus that prompted reportedly tens of thousands from those communities to take refuge elsewhere in Myanmar, along with reports before the beginning of the current crisis of Saudi and Pakistani support for ARSA, complicate the monochromatic international media narrative.

Retired senior State Department diplomat Priscilla Clapp, who served as chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, expressly rejected the received international media slant on the current crisis, saying: “I simply don’t accept the narrative.”

That is especially true given reports in the past few days of mass graves of Hindus that the Myanmar government is attributing to ARSA.

AFP reported yesterday about the discovery of one of those mass graves:

Myanmar’s army said Sunday that a mass grave of 28 Hindus had been discovered in violence-wracked Rakhine state, blaming the killings on Muslim Rohingya militants.

The announcement could not be independently verified in an region that has been seized by communal violence since Rohingya militant raids on August 25 triggered a sweeping security crackdown.

“Security members found and dug up 28 dead bodies of Hindus who were cruelly violently and killed by ARSA extremist Bengali terrorists in Rakhine State,” a statement posted on the army chief’s website said.

The army said that security officers found 20 dead women and eight men in the graves, including six boys under the age of ten.

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay confirmed the discovery of the 28 bodies on Sunday.

A senior police officer in northern Rakhine told AFP they had been “buried with 10-15 bodies in each hole.”

According to that report, the killings occurred on August 25 and appear coordinated with the ARSA attacks on the military border posts.

Additional claims of mass graves of Hindus – victims of ARSA – are now emerging.

The Rohingya refugee crisis is now complicated by the presence of ARSA in the refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Abdus Shukur, one of those refugees, explains that his family supported 40 ARSA fighters in their village.

And now it’s not just ARSA, but a number of terror groups who are actively recruiting to expand the jihad against Myanmar.

Last week, Bangladesh and Malaysia said they were tracking efforts to recruit terrorists to target Myanmar.

India, too, announced the arrest of Al-Qaeda operative Shumon Haq in Delhi. According to police, he had established a presence there to send fighters to Myanmar.

Indian authorities also claim they have evidence of support for ARSA and other Rohingya militant groups coming from established terror organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service has also played a critical role in the mobilization of ARSA and other terrorists.

A report in the Asia Times states that there are 150 foreign jihadist fighters embedded with ARSA.

Most of them are from Bangladesh, eight to ten come from Pakistan with smaller groups from Indonesia, Malaysia and southern Thailand. Two are reportedly from Uzbekistan. Trainings held in the Myanmar-Bangladesh border areas have been carried out in part by older veterans of the Afghan wars, the security analysts say.

It is now clear that the simultaneous attacks on August 25 required meticulous planning. In the months before the attacks, as many as 50 people, Muslims as well as Buddhists suspected of serving as government informants, had their throats slit or were hacked to death in order to deprive the Myanmar military of intelligence in the area.

Videos released by Islamist groups in Indonesia show groups of young men undergoing military training in Aceh, northern Sumatra, in preparation for a jihad in Rakhine state. Massive demonstrations in support of the Rohingya have been held throughout Bangladesh, where the influx of refugees has quickly become a domestic political issue pitting the ruling Awami League against a fundamentalist-backed opposition.

Given the Myanmar military’s ferocious reaction to ARSA’s first clash with security forces last October 9, an exchange and subsequent “clearance operation” which forced as many as 70,000 refugees into Bangladesh, analysts consider it inconceivable that the group did not anticipate an even stronger response to the more widespread attacks of August 25.

Some analysts contend that disrupting the UN commission headed by former Secretary General Kofi Annan that released their findings on August 24, as well as provoking the military’s harsh response, may have been ARSA’s intention behind their August 25 attacks.

And now jihadists across the board are intending to make Myanmar one of the new global jihadist hotspots:

As they’ve tried to do for a number of years:

In 2012, Islamic terror groups, including Hezbollah, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, expressed common cause with the Rohingya.

In Myanmar, ARSA has been openly condemned by Islamic groups.

Needless to say, given the violence on all sides targeting Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian alike in Myanmar, the international media and diplomatic community have done a grave disservice to all of the victims of this violence by pushing a monochromatic narrative that deliberately fails to take into account the complexities of the situation.

This narrative is now driving much of the terrorist propaganda, further inflaming the current crisis.

By cutting off ARSA’s account, Facebook has helped limit the effectiveness of that propaganda.

Twitter, on the other hand, not so much.