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Feb 28, 2009 at 08:49am IST

Bangladesh toll is 61 dead

Dhaka: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday vowed to book the instigators of the bloody 33-hour mutiny by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel, saying "a certain quarter must be involved" in the massacre of over 60 army officers who headed the paramilitary unit.

"Nobody could have staged the rebellion alone. A certain quarter must be involved behind the incident. Everyone was not involved but a group was," she told a group of relatives of BDR officers who were either gunned down or bludgeoned during the insurrection that was put down on Thursday evening.

Hasina, who had declared a general amnesty for the rebels, drew a clear line on crime and punishment. "We have declared general amnesty but every institute has its own law that will take its own course," she told the grieving relatives.

MOURNING: Bangladesh govt declared a three-day mourning for the army officers.

A sombre Bangladesh Army Chief Gen Moin U Ahmed was present on her side as Hasina made the remarks. Meanwhile, the government named Brigadier General Moinul Hossain the new BDR director general after discovering the body of Major General Shakil Ahmed, the BDR chief who was shot dead within 10 minutes after the rebellion erupted on Wednesday.

Forty-two more dead bodies were on Friday found from the BDR headquarters in Dhaka and nearby areas, belonging almost entirely to middle-level and junior officers of the army who man the battalion-level formations of the paramilitary border guard with a strength of 67,000 personnel.

The death toll in the uprising, which came just a month after Hasina took power, was put at 61.

BDR personnel said they revolted over poor work conditions and salary, and accused the army brass of ignoring the paramilitary unit.

Traumatised army officers who suffered the massacre recalled how BDR mutineers covering their faces with red bandanas took control of the BDR conference hall and asked Shakil Ahmed and other officers to line up. A total of 167 officers were at the venue.

Gen Ahmed was killed in a hail of bullets even as he climbed the stage, said a officer who escaped being killed because he instinctively hugged the trooper about to shoot him asking, "Why will you kill me? How have I harmed you?"

Minister for Cooperatives Jahangir Kabir Nanak, who was in the thick of the negotiations with the rebels, called the revolt "a conspiracy" and said the officers were murdered in a well-planned way. He said "a vested group" had "distributed millions of taka among BDR soldiers" to kill the army officers.

Army personnel in tanks and armoured vehicles entered the venue of the rebellion earlier in the day to mop up and to recover bodies of the dead.

They were followed by the police and the Rapid Action Battalion, another paramilitary unit.

Scores of hastily discarded BDR uniforms were recovered at the headquarters, indicating that many mutineers had escaped from the place in civilian clothes.

Beginning Friday, the government declared a three-day mourning for the army officers. National flags would fly at half mast during the mourning.

One report said of the 32 bodies recovered from a 15-feet manhole near the BDR hospital mortuary, 14 were in BDR uniform. Eight other bodies were recovered from a canal.

Fifteen of the deceased were of the rank of major, lieutenant colonels and colonels of the Bangladesh Army.

The government has arrested some 200 troopers and is on the lookout for several others.

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