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Confirmed death toll in Bangladesh Rifles mutiny reaches 55

RIA Novosti

27/02/2009 17:14 NEW DELHI, February 27 (RIA Novosti) - The number of Bangladeshi border guard officers confirmed dead following the recent mutiny in the capital of Dhaka has climbed to 55, national media reported on Friday.

The Bangladesh Rifles, a paramilitary force responsible for guarding the country's borders, mutinied at their headquarters in Dhaka on Wednesday in protest over pay and conditions. The mutiny follows years of tension between senior officers brought in from the regular army and the rest of the force.

Facing an ultimatum from Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who met the ringleaders on Wednesday evening, some mutineers laid down their weapons, but gunfire broke out again on Thursday morning at a barracks in the Pilkhana area of Dhaka.

The mutiny then began to spread throughout the country, and reports of gunfire were heard near the barracks of the Bangladesh Rifles in the regions of Chittagong, Rajshahi, Feni, Teknaf, Satkania, Sylhet, Dinajpur and Naogaon.

On Thursday evening the mutiny was brought under control and the bodies of 17 officers, including Bangladesh Rifles Brigadier General Abdul Bari, were found in ditches around the headquarters building.

The search for bodies continued on Friday, with another 34 bodies discovered in a shallow grave near the compound's hospital and four more bodies discovered in a drainage ditch, bringing the total to 55.

Dozens of officers are still unaccounted for, however, including the Bangladesh Rifles commander, General Major Shakil Ahmed. Just over 30 officers were able to flee during the mutiny and, according to them, the death toll could reach 100.

One officer said that as soon as the mutiny began, he hid in a ditch where he remained until evening, when he climbed onto a roof of one of the buildings until after it was over.

There are no reports of casualties in other towns and cities in Bangladesh.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak, the mutiny was a carefully planned and financed sabotage.

"It didn't just happen. It was a conspiracy. The killings were well-planned," Nanak said.

Nanak said that the organizers of this "bloody event" paid the aggressors money to kill the officers. According to him, almost all of the casualties, who were gathered in a conference hall, occurred in the first minutes of the mutiny.

Hasina, who had earlier promised the mutineers amnesty, announced an investigation would be carried out into the events and pointed to a particular group being behind the mutiny.

The premier was cited in The Hindu as saying. "Possibly one particular group [among the BDR soldiers] carried out the massacre with a heinous motive," adding "it appears that not all BDR soldiers were involved in the killings."

A number of Indian media outlets on Thursday, citing sources in India's special forces reported that a radically motivated Islamist group was behind the conspiracy. The group is said to be close to the Bangladesh People's party, who lost in parliamentary elections in December.


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