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Bangladesh mutiny deaths probed

Searchers lift an officer's body from a manhole near the mutineers' barracks in Dhaka, 27 February
Bodies of some of the mutiny victims were pulled from sewers

Bangladesh has ordered an inquiry into the deaths of 21 border guards who were held in custody after a mutiny in February that killed nearly 100 people.

The investigation will be led by a senior civil servant and will establish the causes of the "unnatural deaths", officials said.

The investigators have been asked to submit a report within 15 days.

The army said last month that most of those who died either committed suicide or died from heart attacks or diseases.

The deaths in custody have been strongly criticised by rights groups including Human Rights Watch.

About 3,000 Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) members have been detained following the two-day mutiny at the regiment's headquarters in Dhaka.

Dozens of soldiers were killed in the mutiny, allegedly by members of the BDR, the paramilitary unit responsible for guarding the country's borders.

The mutiny was over pay, conditions and advancement.

'Confident'

The government has told the investigators they must determine the number, name, designation and address of BDR personnel who died in custody and find out the causes of their deaths.

BDR badge
Maj-Gen Islam says that morale in the BDR is improving

The probe has been told to make recommendations for preventing similar suicides and unnatural deaths in the future.

Last month the head of the BDR, Maj Gen Moinul Islam, told the BBC that if there was any evidence of wrongdoing he was "fully confident that police and other investigating authorities will be fully able fairly to investigate the matter".

A BDR statement released at that time said some BDR soldiers "connected with the mutiny are committing suicide which is quite unexpected".

Gen Islam said that morale in the BDR was improving.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told the AFP news agency that the official causes of death - the most recent of which occurred last week - were questionable.

"I have never heard, in all of the countries I have worked in, of so many deaths in custody in such a short period of time," he said.

"There is no reason to believe at face value any of these deaths are from natural causes or suicide. We are extremely concerned about ongoing torture and lack of access to the detainees."



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