Page last updated at 07:33 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

Q&A: Bangladesh border guards mutiny

Bangladesh border guards have surrendered after their two-day mutiny in the capital, Dhaka. Some 700 guards are in custody and a manhunt is on for 1,000 more "guards and accomplices" .

Some 74 officers are thought to have died, along with 20 civilians. Here is a look at what led to the situation and its consequences.

Who was behind the mutiny?

The revolt started on Wednesday at the headquarters of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) in the Pilkhana area of Dhaka.

Hostages after their release
The border guards released hostages taken during the mutiny

The BDR are a paramilitary force, officially part of the home ministry, responsible for Bangladesh's border security.

They also perform anti-smuggling work and are required to help civil and military authorities as directed by the government.

The BDR has 70,000 men stationed at 42 camps across the country, including 40,000 along the country's 4,000km (2,500-mile) border with India and Burma.

Why did the BDR mutiny?

The mutineers want the BDR command and officers to be drawn from their own ranks rather than from the regular army - most BDR officers are seconded from the army for two to four years.

The mutineers also complained about pay and conditions. The average BDR guard earns about $70 (£50) a month, which is equivalent to the wages of a low-ranking government clerk.

"An ordinary guard doesn't get decent pay or food and spends a lot of time living in harsh, remote areas," a Dhaka University professor told the AFP news agency.

The mutiny was reportedly sparked off by the refusal of senior officers to consider more pay and better conditions for the troops.

What impact might the mutiny have on Bangladeshi politics?

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was sworn in at the start of the year after two years of an army-backed interim government.

Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina promised to address concerns over pay and conditions

The BDR mutineers were not thought to be asking for any political change.

In a televised address earlier on Thursday, Sheikh Hasina promised the mutineers that her government would address their concerns over pay and working conditions.

But she also threatened "tough action" if they did not surrender their arms. It seems that this message had the desired effect.

However, when the scale of the fatalities in the mutiny became clear, the government said it would punish anyone involved in the killings.

What are the consequences for Bangladesh?

Bangladesh's 37-year history has been a turbulent one, with many incidents of political turmoil and violence.

The country has a population of more than 140 million - 40% of whom are below the poverty line - and it is dependent on foreign aid and investment.

There are fears that further political unrest could deter investors and donor countries.

Current economic growth could miss its target of 6.5%, partly due to the global financial crisis, but political instability could push it down even more, according to some economists.

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