|Intelligence officials had warned that radical groups with links to the military may try to oust Hasina [Reuters]
The Bangladesh army has foiled a plan to bring down the government of Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister, according to a military spokesman.
Brigadier-General Muhammad Masud Razzaq said around 16 former and active officers were involved in the plot, unearthed in December.
"Specific information has been unearthed that some officers in military service have been involved in the conspiracy to
topple the system of democratic governance," Razzaq said on Thursday.
"A band of fanatic officers had been trying to oust the politically established government."
Several officers have been arrested and will be presented before a court of inquiry.
Razzaq said serving officer Major Syed Ziaul Haq, who was now on the run, had circulated emails to different serving officers detailing a plan to overthrow the government on January 9-10.
The Muslim group Hizb-e-Tahrir, banned in Bangladesh in 2009 after it was linked to a car bomb on a politician, was accused of helping to circulate the messages.
Razzaq said the plot had been fomented by Bangladeshi expatriates in touch with "religiously fanatic army officers".
Intelligence officials had repeatedly warned that radical Islamic groups with links to the military may try to oust Hasina.
Syed Ashraful Islam, secretary-general of Hasina's Awami League, said late on Thursday that the government was "determined to crush any conspiracy against the country and the government", and that those found guilty would be brought to justice.
Hasina's government, which came to power in early 2009, made changes in June last year to bolster the secular character of the Bangladesh constitution, although Islam was retained as the state religion.
The move sparked a series of angry protests by Islamist activists.
A mutiny in the country's paramilitary forces in February 2009 started in Dhaka and spread to a dozen other cities, leaving more than 70 people dead, including 51 army officers.
The revolt was quelled after two days, but the country has since been shadowed by fears of further uprisings.
Bangladesh has a history of coups, with army generals running the South Asian nation for 15 years until the end of 1990.