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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 10:26 GMT
Bangladesh orders arms surrender
Bangladeshi troops cordon off a Dhaka street
The army says the operations will continue
The authorities in Bangladesh have ordered citizens with licensed firearms to surrender all weapons and ammunition by 15 November as part of an ongoing anti-crime drive.


Operation Clean Heart will continue as long as listed and identified criminals are not arrested

General HM Chowdhury, army chief

An official directive says violators will face "legal action". The order comes after soldiers carrying out Operation Clean Heart recovered many licensed firearms from people who did not hold the licences.

Despite mounting criticism of alleged human rights violations - 19 people have died in detention - the government and the army have defended the operations.

The crackdown is also receiving help from India where intelligence agencies are looking for Bangladeshi criminals who have allegedly fled to the states of West Bengal and Tripura since the crackdown began on 17 October.

Growing criticism

The main opposition leader, Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League, demanded early elections to replace what she described as "undeclared martial law".

Opposition leader Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina demands immediate polls

"We want immediate elections as the government is clinically dead and I see no point for keeping such a large cabinet," she told journalists in Dhaka on Tuesday.

Rejecting comparisons between current operations and similar drives ordered by her party in 1973-74, she said: "There is undeclared martial law as what is happening in the country now cannot be called democracy."

But the Chief of the Army Staff, General HM Chowdhury, says Bangladeshis have already started benefiting from the drive as criminals have either been arrested, or have gone into hiding.

"Operation Clean Heart will continue as long as listed and identified criminals are not arrested," he was quoted by the AFP news agency on Wednesday.

Donor concern

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta quotes Bangladeshi officials as saying that wanted criminals like Subrata Bayen, Kala Jahangir and Picchi Hannan fled to India's West Bengal state with weapons after the army crackdown began.

Senior Indian police and intelligence officers said their colleagues had started looking for Bangladeshi criminals, but they needed more detailed information.

Meanwhile, Frederick Temple, the World Bank's senior representative in Dhaka, urged Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's government not to neglect long-term reforms.

"The recent recourse to the army is a clear indication of the inability of the police to cope with rising crime," he said on Tuesday.

"While it is important to establish the legal basis for army involvement and to maintain human rights, sight should not be lost of the urgency of police reform," he said.

See also:

01 Nov 02 | South Asia
23 Oct 02 | South Asia
22 Oct 02 | South Asia
17 Oct 02 | South Asia
01 Oct 02 | South Asia
11 Mar 02 | South Asia
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