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Page last updated at 23:36 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Bangladesh army backs government

Bangladesh's army troops in Dhaka
Gen Ahmed said the army remained subservient to the government

The head of Bangladesh's armed forces has pledged support for the government, following a mutiny by border guards that left some 100 people dead.

Gen Moin U Ahmed spoke after talks with PM Sheikh Hasina in the capital, Dhaka.

Some officers say the government should have quelled the mutiny by force not talks, arguing this might have saved the lives of some of their colleagues.

Earlier, troops uncovered a mass grave in Dhaka thought to hold the bodies of 58 officers killed by the mutineers.

Among the bodies found at the huge barracks of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) in Dhaka was that of Maj Gen Shakil Ahmed, who was the chief of the force.

Scores of officers are still missing, feared dead as the search in the barracks continues.

The authorities have arrested at least 200 suspected mutineers who reportedly rebelled for two days over poor pay and conditions. They were held while trying to escape dressed in civilian clothes from the barracks.

Anger in army

After the talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Gen Ahmed announced that the army remained loyal to her government.

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

"We should not act against one another," he said.

Earlier, some army officers told the BBC they were unhappy at the way the mutiny had been handled by the government.

They also said they were angry that the government had initially offered the mutineers an amnesty.

However, the government later declared that the men responsible for the deaths would be punished.

"No-one has the right to kill anyone," Sheikh Hasina was later reported as saying.

Three days of officials mourning 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.

map of bangladesh

"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."

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.

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 morning, reportedly after senior BDR officers - many of whom are from the regular army - refused to consider better pay and conditions for the troops.

FROM THE BBC WORLD SERVICE

Rank-and-file BDR members have long been angry over the fact that they earn about $70 (Ł49) 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 the prime minister 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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