Bangladesh mutiny leaves scores of officers dead

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

On Wednesday, members of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), a paramilitary force charged with border security for Bangladesh, staged a mutiny taking over 100 of their officers as hostages. They took control of the primary barracks in the Pilkhana area of the Dhaka District.

According to one mutineer, who spoke to the BBC, the troops were unhappy with the officers and felt that they were being exploited. Rank-and-file BDR members are paid about US$70 (£49) per month, substantially lower than the officers and on par with a low-ranking clerk.

"Our families might suffer because of what we have done, but they have been exploiting us for more than 200 years," the unidentified man said.

The BDR has 67,000 men stationed at 42 camps across the country, including 40,000 stationed at border camps. Clashes were reported at as many as twelve different camps.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2000.

In the ensuing standoff, the Bangladesh Army and the Rapid Action Battalion were called in to show the resolve of the government. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared an amnesty for the mutineers if they would stand down.

When the BDR mutineers laid down arms or fled, troops moved in and discovered a mass grave containing at least 58 officers at the Dhaka facility, including the head of the BDR, Major General Shakil Ahmed. Reports say that as many as 100 were killed. The Press Trust of India reports that the whereabouts of 130 officers have not been determined.

"The bodies were buried underground in a makeshift grave near the hospital in the BDR headquarters compound," Colonel Rezaul Karim of the Rapid Action Battalion told Agence France-Presse. "The dirt had been covered with leaves."

The head of the Bangladesh Army, General Moeen U Ahmed, criticized the government's handling of the mutiny and expressed disapproval of the offer of amnesty. He did, however, say that the Army remains loyal to the government.

"We should not act against one another," said Gen. Moeen U Ahmed.

Prime Minister Hasina backtracked on the amnesty after the mass grave was discovered.

"The people directly involved in the killings will not be pardoned and would not be covered under the general amnesty," she said. "No-one has the right to kill anyone."

"This is probably the biggest incident Bangladesh has had since 1975 and our government — the prime minister — handled this compassionately, pragmatically but decisively to bring the situation under control," Sajeeb Wazed, son of Sheikh Hasina, told the BBC, referring to the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.


Sources

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