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Central & South Asia
Dozens missing in Bangladesh revolt
Firefighters search for bodies as army enters paramilitary force's camp in Dhaka.
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2009 09:40 GMT

Many of the officers who were inside the BDR
camp in Dhaka are still unaccounted for [AFP]

Authorities in Bangladesh continue their search for the bodies of people killed in a two-day revolt by border guards inside the capital, Dhaka.
 
Dilip Kumar Ghosh, a firefighter, said on Friday that nine bodies had been found overnight, raising the death toll to at least 22 people, many of them senior officers of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR).

With more than 100 army officers still missing, officials said they expected the death toll to rise.

A spokesman for the armed forces said only 31 of the 168 officers who were inside the Dhaka headquarters when the mutiny began were accounted for.

"We don't know what happened to the rest of the 137 officers. They are still missing," he said.

The guards surrendered on Thursday after Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the prime minister, threatened to put down the mutiny by force and sent tanks into the streets of Dhaka.

Tanks deployed

Al Jazeera's Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dhaka, said three tanks entered the compound on Friday morning.

"Despite Sheikh Hasina's promises that she would forgive the mutineers and that the army would not intervene, mutineers have been arrested inside the compound and the army is taking control of the area," he said.

In depth



 Focus: Mutiny reveals chaos
 Gallery: The Rifles' revolt
 Country profile: Bangladesh

"Some of the mutineers have tried to flee the compound, dressed in civil clothes, but the police managed to catch them overnight."

Officials said more than 230 guards had been arrested in Dhaka and 68 more near the town of Savar. Ferriers and buses were being search for more mutineers.

In a TV appeal on Thursday, Hasina addressed the BDR: "Lay down your guns immediately and go back to barracks. Do not force me to take tough actions or push my patience beyond tolerable limits."

"Give democracy and the economy a chance to develop."

A day earlier, Hasina had offered the mutineers an amnesty and agreed to look into their demands.

Local media and officials said the mutineers were protesting poor pay, benefits and command structure.

'Serious concerns'

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Maria Kuusisto, an analyst for Eurasia Group, a global political risk research and consulting firm based in London, said that Hasina had responded very effectively to the crisis but that the incident raised serious concerns.

 "The Bangladesh Rifles are a very significant force in Bangladesh. They number about a quarter of the entire armed forces and they perform various duties including border security, counter-terrorism and some social tasks," Kuusisto said.

"There is a large amount of suspicion now within the military towards the Rifles and and also within the government and it will be difficult [for Hasina] to meet these conditions [the Rifles' demands]."

The mutiny began at the BDR compound in Dhaka, where nearly 2,000 guards opened fire on their senior officers and seized their headquarters.

Police chiefs across the country said BDR members had revolted in 15 border districts.

Contentious issue

The BDR is led by army officers and it has been a contentious issue with the troops, who want commanders to be drawn from their own ranks.

The main duty of the BDR is to guard the country's borders, but they often back up the army and police.

The turmoil underscores the challenges faced by Hasina, who took office only last month after winning parliamentary elections in December that returned Bangladesh to democracy after nearly two years of army-backed emergency rule.

Bangladesh, home to more than 140 million people, has had several military coups since independence in 1971.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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