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Bangladesh cuts mutiny death toll

2 March 09 22:48 GMT

Bangladeshi officials now say 74 people died in last week's border guard mutiny - halving previous estimates of deaths.

The bodies of 56 officers had been found and seven were still missing, a senior army official said. Civilians were also killed in the violence.

Thousands attended state funerals for almost 50 victims of the violence in the capital Dhaka on Monday.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Dhaka says the army has not yet explained how the toll was so badly misjudged.

On Saturday, the head of Bangladesh's military intelligence said 70 officers had been killed and 72 were still missing.

But two days later, the army's chief of staff, Lt Gen Sinha Ibne Jamali, said that figure was incorrect, and only seven officers were still unaccounted for.

Mr Jamali said it had taken time to gather all the correct information about casualty figures but did not explain how the army had made such a mistake.

Over the past few days, officials have also given conflicting figures for the number of suspected mutineers - anything from 20 to 15,000, our correspondent says.

On Sunday, the police said more than 1,000 men were being charged, but admitted that they did not know their names.


Funerals were held on Monday for almost 50 victims of the mutiny, including the commander-in-chief of the BDR, Maj Gen Shakil Ahmed, and his wife Nazneen.

New President Zillur Rahman and army chief Gen Moeen U Ahmed led the funeral at the national parade ground in Dhaka, where jets flew overhead.

Relatives travelled from all over the country and there were emotional scenes as buglers played the Last Post.

Meanwhile the government has stepped up the hunt for the guardsmen who fled the mutiny.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered a manhunt for "1,000 guardsmen and accomplices" believed to have escaped after the two-day mutiny.

Soldiers have fanned out across the nation to help police track down fugitives in a search operation codenamed Operation Rebel Hunt.

Home Minister Shahara Khatun said the soldiers would stay "as long as necessary" to help police.

Sheikh Hasina said she had asked the FBI and Scotland Yard for assistance in the investigation.

She said that nearly 700 soldiers of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) were already in detention.

They had laid down their guns on Thursday after the prime minister promised to send in tanks to crush their revolt.

They also include six guardsmen who went to the PM's office initially to negotiate the mutineers' surrender.

Charges include conspiracy to kill officers and civilians, using weapons and explosives, creating panic, looting and trying to hide bodies.

Our correspondent says the fugitive border guards can expect little mercy from the army.

Bodies dumped

The action by rank-and-file BDR troops apparently began as a row over pay.

About 180 officers were present at the BDR annual meeting when the mutiny broke out.

Many of bodies discovered so far had been mutilated after being shot; some of the officers' wives were also killed. A handful of civilians were also caught in crossfire.

Correspondents say the remains of the missing officers have probably either been burned or dumped in fast-flowing sewers.

The government had offered the mutineers an amnesty but once the scale of the massacre became apparent, it said those responsible would be punished.

The army has said that those found guilty of murder will be executed.

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