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'Top mutineer' held in Bangladesh

3 March 09 17:47 GMT

Police in Bangladesh say they have arrested the alleged leader of a mutiny staged by border guards last week which left 74 people dead.

Syed Tauhidul Alam was the "ringleader" behind the mutiny and was arrested along with at least four other men in a Dhaka slum, the officials said.

The authorities are still searching for more than 1,000 border guards who have been charged with murder.

Funerals were held on Monday for almost 50 victims of the mutiny.

It was staged by men of the 70,000-strong Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border security force.

At the time, the mutineers said their revolt was over pay and working conditions but the government now says it was part of a wider conspiracy aimed at destabilising Bangladesh.

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

'Ringleader'

"Intelligence and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officers have arrested Tauhidul Alam following a raid in the capital. He is the prime accused in the events at the Bangladesh Rifles headquarters last week," RAB spokesman M Kamruzzaman told the AFP news agency.

"Alam was the ringleader of the mutineers. The four others arrested by our officers have also been named in the case."

Correspondents say that Mr Alam led a small group of mutineers who held negotiations with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to bring an end to the 33-hour mutiny on Thursday.

During that meeting the prime minister issued an amnesty for those mutineers who surrendered. Soon afterwards they were seen laying down their weapons allegedly on the orders of Mr Alam, who was reportedly an assistant director in the BDR.

Earlier officials clarified that 74 people died in the mutiny - halving previous estimates of deaths.

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.

Two different investigations are now underway, one headed by the government, the other by the army.

Relations between the two have been weakened by the events of the last week as many in the army are angry with the prime minister for her handling of the crisis, our correspondent says.

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