34 bodies found, Bangladesh mutiny toll 56 (Lead)

February 27th, 2009 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Feb 27 (IANS) The death toll in the bloody revolt by Bangladesh’s body guards rose to 56 Friday as troops recovered 34 more bodies of army officers, including that of the Bangladesh Rifle (BDR) chief, and others massacred by the mutineers, the authorities said.
Army soldiers who entered the BDR headquarters on Dhaka’s outskirts came across bodies of people gunned down by the troopers after they rebelled Wednesday seeking better pay and work hours.

The government has ordered a high-level probe into the bloody affair, which came as a jolt to the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that took office only in January.

The investigation will also try to find out if there was a foreign hand behind the mutiny. The government has arrested some 200 troopers and is on the lookout for several others.

A traumatised officer who survived the cold-blooded massacre related how the paramilitary personnel of the 67,000-strong BDR went on a killing spree after revolting against the officers drawn from the regular army.

Major General Shakil Ahmed, the BDR director general, died in a hail of bullets within 10 minutes of the mutiny, said Lt. Col. Syed Kamruzzaman, who escaped by hugging a BDR trooper who was about to kill him.

The shooting began at a conference room, the Daily Star said, with troopers wearing red bandanas opening fire at the BDR chief and some other officers who were forced to walk in a line.

“As the DG (Shakil Ahmed) climbed down the stairs of Darbar Hall, one jawan sprayed him with bullets. Soon the other jawans there started firing on us,” said Kamruzzaman.

“I dived on the ground… Somehow I managed to crawl into a washroom. A few minutes later some jawans found I was hiding in a toilet. They fired a volley of shots at me but miraculously none hit me,” he went on.

“As one jawan pointed his gun at my chest, in desperation I hugged him tightly and asked, `Why will you kill me? What harm did I do to you?’.

“I don’t know what occurred to them. They said ‘OK. We won’t kill you’. They took me to another place and kept me hidden from others.”

According to Kamruzzaman, when the troopers were taking him to safety, he saw the bodies of the major general, a brigadier, at least four colonels and a lieutenant colonel.

He said over 160 officers were in the conference hall when the killing began.

One media report said some of the bodies were recovered from sewage drains. Family members of the slain and missing army officers heading the BDR waited anxiously outside the BDR headquarters.

Army tanks Friday rolled into the sprawling BDR complex as search operations for the missing officers began. The soldiers, backed by six tanks and 20 armoured vehicles, entered through the main entrance.

Commerce Minister Mohammad Faruk Khan said the government probe would seek to find out if “other forces” had a role in the BDR uprising.

The government’s view appeared to match with former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia.

Faruk Khan said: “We are suspecting the involvement of other elements behind such an unfortunate incident at BDR headquarters.”

He urged the BDR troopers to calm down. “We have to solve problems and demands of BDR jawans through dialogue. A mutiny will not bring solution to any problem.”

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 in the face of an imminent attack by the Bangladesh Army.

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