Page last updated at 08:11 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Bangladesh guard mutiny 'spreads'

A soldier outside the BDR headquarters in Dhaka, 25 Feb
Soldiers were sent to the barracks seized by mutinous border guards

A mutiny by border guards in Dhaka has spread to towns outside the Bangladeshi capital, reports say.

Heavy gunfire has also resumed at the border guards barracks in Dhaka, where the troops had begun laying down their arms after a day of violence.

Nearly 50 people are thought to have died on Wednesday as the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) staged an armed mutiny, said to be over pay and conditions.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is due to address the nation later.

What she says will have a critical impact on how this crisis is resolved, say the BBC's Mark Dummett in Dhaka.

The government had offered the paramilitary troops a general amnesty, and the prime minister has promised to look into their grievances.

Blocked road

There are reports of rank and file soldiers seizing control of their barracks and camps in at least 12 different towns and cities since early on Thursday.

The BDR has 40,000 men stationed at 42 camps across the country.

map of bangladesh
In some cases, the border guards have taken their officers hostage, and in others they have forced them to leave, reports say.

Some mutineers told the BBC that they had taken up arms over fears that regular army units had been ordered to disarm them.

There are unconfirmed reports of gunfire in the main port city of Chittagong, at Feni, on the eastern border with India, in Rajshahi in the north west, and Sylhet in the north.

A man claiming to be a BDR soldier in Chittagong said they had opened fire to prevent regular army units from entering their camp, unconfirmed reports say.

Another report said similar incidents had occurred at Cox's Bazaar and Feni.

In Khulna in the south, border guards have reportedly blocked a road, but no shooting has taken place.

The police chief in the north-eastern Moulivibazar district told the AFP news agency that the border guards were "firing indiscriminately".

Bangladesh army soldiers near the HQ of mutinous troops, 25 Feb

"Their commanding officer told me that he has fled the camp."

There are no reports so far of any casualties in these reported incidents.

The mutineers seized the military barracks in the Pilkhana area of Dhaka on Wednesday morning, reportedly taking more than 100 people hostage.

Officials said there were unconfirmed reports that nearly 50 people died.

Speaking on Wednesday, one of the mutineers in Dhaka told the BBC that the guards had had to take up arms to resolve problems with their officers.

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

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