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COX’S BAZAR (Bangladesh): Thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have been left without shelter after a suspected arson attack ripped through their camp burning nearly 800 homes, an official said Sunday.

Bangladesh is home to around a million Rohingya, many of whom fled a 2017 military crackdown on the mainly Muslim minority in neighbouring Myanmar that is now subject to a UN genocide probe.

The United Nations refugee agency said “nearly 7,000 Rohingya refugees” had been left homeless, but that there were no casualties.

The blaze tore through the tightly packed complex of bamboo and tarpaulin shelters in the early hours of Sunday morning at a camp in the country’s southeast, refugee commissioner Mizanur Rahman said.

“At least 711 shelters were fully burnt and 63 were partially damaged,” said Rahman, who put the number of homeless at 4,000.

“We have ordered a probe into the fire”, he added. “We suspect it is an act of arson”.

The UN said 120 facilities, including learning centres, mosques and healthcare centres, had also been “destroyed or damaged by the inferno”.

Some refugees had to tear down their homes to create corridors to stop the fire from spreading further.

“Refugees displaced by the fire are temporarily taking shelter within the camp’s community centres,” the UN refugee agency said in a statement.

Fires in the dozens of Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are common, especially during the dry season from November to April.

But many of the camps are also riven by violence between rival Rohingya groups.

Police said security in the camps has worsened, with more than 60 refugees killed in turf wars and drug-related clashes last year, the highest number on record.

In March 2023, a fire in Kutupalong camp — one of the world’s largest refugee settlements — destroyed 2,000 shelters.

Two years earlier, at least 15 Rohingya were killed and another 50,000 refugees were made homeless after a blaze in the same camp.

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