Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Bangladesh troops find mass grave


Security is tight in Dhaka as relatives wait for news

Bangladeshi troops searching the site of a mutiny in Dhaka have uncovered a grave thought to hold the bodies of 58 officers killed by mutineers.

Scores of officers are missing feared dead at the huge border guard barracks, where nearly 100 people are now known to have died in two days of unrest.

Among the bodies found is that of the border guard force's chief officer.

The authorities have arrested at least 200 suspected mutineers who reportedly rebelled over poor pay and conditions.

They were detained while trying to escape dressed in civilian clothes from the barracks of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), officials say.

After visiting the sprawling compound, a government minister declared that the men responsible for the deaths would not receive an amnesty, as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina previously offered.

"No-one has the right to kill anyone," the prime minister was reported as saying.

The government has declared three days of official mourning, which began on Friday and will end at midnight on Sunday.

'Covered with leaves'

As the search continued inside the Dhaka compound, security officials told the BBC they believed the grave contained 58 bodies.

Searchers lift an officer's body from a manhole near the mutineers' barracks in Dhaka, 27 February

"The bodies were buried underground in a makeshift grave near the hospital in the BDR headquarters compound," Col Rezaul Karim, deputy chief of the elite Rapid Action Battalion force, was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

"The dirt had been covered with leaves."

Among the bodies found was that of Maj Gen Shakil Ahmed, who was chief of the BDR force.

Another 22 bodies were found earlier, including some that had been pulled from sewers and manholes.

Another officer, Brig Abu Naim Shahidullah, told private television station NTV that troops had found a number of mass graves and were "digging out dozens of decomposing bodies".

The assumption is that other missing officers were also shot by their men and that their corpses have been buried or dumped in the large drains that run underneath the BDR headquarters in central Dhaka, the BBC's Mark Dummett reports from the city.

map of bangladesh

The families of the missing officers are still waiting in anguish outside the gate of the barracks for news, he adds.

Seven BDR troopers also died in the clashes, along with four civilians, including one boy.

Along with its headquarters in Dhaka, the BDR has nearly 70,000 men stationed at 42 camps across the country, including 40,000 on the borders.

Reuters news agency cites officials reporting that BDR troopers who took to the streets at bases outside Dhaka have now returned to work, and business in those towns is going on as normal.

'Triumph for democracy'

The crisis began on Wednesday at about 0930 (0330 GMT), reportedly after senior BDR officers refused to consider better pay and conditions for the troops.


Rank-and-file BDR members have long been angry over the fact that they earn about $70 (49) a month, equivalent to the pay of a low-ranking government clerk, while their senior officers, in contrast, are relatively well-paid army officers.

They ended their mutiny on Thursday after tanks surrounded the barracks and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered to consider their grievances.

The prime minister's son, Sajeeb Wazed, has told the BBC he believes that her handling of the crisis was a "triumph for democracy" in Bangladesh.

"This is probably the biggest incident Bangladesh has had since 1975 [when President Sheikh Mujib was assassinated in a coup] and our government - the prime minister - handled this compassionately, pragmatically but decisively to bring the situation under control," he said on the World Today programme.

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