Political bickering over Bangladesh mutiny probe

March 1st, 2009 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, March 1 (IANS) Political differences have surfaced over the probe into the killing of over 60 army officers in a revolt by troopers of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) as the government said it would complete its probe within a week and a special tribunal would try the mutineers.
As veiled charges of “vested interest” and “outside forces” being behind the mutiny continued to fly, main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) demanded an all-party probe body to include army representatives.

BNP chief and former prime minister Khaleda Zia voiced her disagreement over the general amnesty her political rival and prime minister Sheikh Hasina had declared in her talks with the rebels’ representatives even as the mutiny was in progress.

Zia called it “great strategic mistake”, New Age newspaper said Sunday.

Hasina’s Awami League and its allies have in turned questioned Zia’s “long silence” over the incident.

Many political leaders with military background, including former president H.M. Ershad, a Hasina ally, had actively worked to quell the rebellion.

The government had explained that amnesty was needed to put down the mutiny. Hasina has since said the amnesty would not cover those who actively participated in the rebellion.

Newly appointed BDR Director General Brig. Gen. Moinul Hossain assured that all the country’s borders were secure.

His immediate task would be to “regain the command structure” of the paramilitary force.

The body count in the mutiny at BDR headquarters in the national capital stood at 73, up from 62, a Military Intelligence (MI) official said Saturday night.

MI Director Brig. Gen. Mahmud Hossain told mediapersons that 47 of the retrieved dead have been identified.

Thirty-one officers deputed to the paramilitary force survived the revolt by the border guards.

The discovery of three mass graves caused postponement of the funeral prayers of those whose bodies have been found.

The body of Naznin Shakil, the wife of slain BDR chief Major General Shakil Ahmed was among them, The Daily Star said.

Of those confirmed dead, over 60 are army officials.

An official engaged in the rescue and head count said: “It seems there might have been 138 army officers and 30 BDR officers at the Darbar Hall (conference room where the mutiny started) Wednesday.”

As 31 army officers have come out alive and 60 have been found dead, it leaves about 50 on the missing list.

The mutiny broke out Wednesday morning when the rebellious men took control of their headquarter. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered general amnesty to them, but the troopers were defiant.

The government held talks with a delegation of the mutineers Thursday and an agreement was reached. By then the mutiny had spread to other BDR camps all over the country.

The revolt ended Thursday evening in the face of an imminent attack by the Bangladesh Army.

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