Bullets fly as army, paramilitary clash in Dhaka (Second Lead)

February 25th, 2009 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Feb 25 (IANS) Smoke billowed and a helicopter circled in the air Wednesday as gunbattles broke out between Bangladesh’s border guards, the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), and the army in Dhaka in what appeared to be a virtual uprising by the paramilitary troopers.
Four civilians were injured in the crossfire, residents in the Bangladesh capital said. All of them were hospitalised with bullet wounds.

Residents close to the BDR headquarters in Peelkhana on the outskirts of the capital said they heard sounds of gunshots and mortar shells Wednesday morning.

The army has been called to put down the trouble.

The trouble broke out at about 9 a.m. (8.30 a.m. in India) between BDR personnel and its officers who are from the army.

According to the Daily Star newspaper, scores of civilians were injured outside the BDR headquarters as “artillery and rifles were also reportedly fired”.

Smoke billowed from the BDR compound and a helicopter circled over the building.

BDR, originally raised by the British in 1795, acquired its present role and name after the nation’s independence in 1971.

Having an estimated strength of 67,000 men, it is headed by a director general who is drawn from the Bangladesh Army.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who took power in January, had Tuesday visited the BDR headquarters to address the troopers.

She had warned that “any unfair step against Bangladesh will have to be resisted with bravery and boldness”.

“We have some border-related problems with our neighbouring countries. A policy has been adopted in the top level to solve these problems. We believe in good relations with the neighbouring countries. But any unfair step on us will have to be resisted with bravery and boldness.”

The prime minister also categorically stated that the none would be allowed to use the territory of Bangladesh for terrorist activities.

“I hope BDR officers will be more vigilant in resisting smuggling to save our economy. You know that smuggling is very much harmful for a country’s economy,” she said in her maiden address to the BDR.

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