Mutiny spreads outside Dhaka, government-troopers begin talks (Second Lead)

February 26th, 2009 - 1:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Feb 26 (IANS) Amid reports that the uprising by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) troopers had spread beyond Dhaka, a government team here Thursday began talks with the mutineers who had a day earlier fought fierce battles with the army, killing at least 50 people.
Though the rebel troopers in Dhaka surrendered their arms after an amnesty offer by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wednesday evening, there were reports that the border guards had begun fighting in other towns.

“Fighting is raging outside the BDR camp, with troops coming on the street holding up guns and shooting,” Times Online quoted a witness as saying in Sylhet, in the northeast of the country.

Hasina Thursday met the three service chiefs and also held an emergency meeting of her cabinet and political colleagues.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Matia Choudhury and her team began the talks at 9 a.m., Star Online said.

The surrender of arms by the BDR troopers began past 1 a.m. Thursday, but tension prevailed at the headquarters at Pilkhana on the outskirts of the national capital.

Gunshots were reportedly fired long after Hasina announced a general amnesty.

State Minister for Law Quamrul Islam said that the death toll was likely to be 50.

As many as 15,000 soldiers took part in the rebellion. The condition of many senior officers, including its BDR chief, Major General Shakil Ahmed, was not known.

Red Crescent Society officials at about 3 a.m. entered the headquarters to take out the women and children trapped inside as the mutinous troopers agreed to set them free.

The troopers’ grievances relate to their pay packets and working conditions. There is also a sentiment against the army from where the top brass of the BDR is drawn.

A rebel trooper was quoted by New Age as saying: “Although the military officers receive 30 percent of their salary in special allowance for serving in the Bangladesh Rifles, we get a monthly allowance of Taka 260 ($38 approx.) for the same job. We run the same risks.”

The BDR trooper pointed out that in case of death on duty, compensation of only Taka 50,000-100,000 was paid.

With border checkposts left unmanned and patrolling virtually abandoned by troopers who disarmed their officers at some places, neighbour India placed its Border Security Force (BSF) on full alert and monitored the developments closely.

Uncertainty prevailed in most outposts and camps as the army officials there felt shaky with troopers focusing on the situation in Dhaka without concentrating on their daily patrol, according to reports reaching Dhaka said.

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