Bodies Found After Bangladesh Mutiny

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) - Firefighters searching the headquarters
compound of Bangladesh's border guards have uncovered the grisly
results of the force's two-day mutiny - dozens of senior officers
massacred, their bodies hurriedly dumped into shallow graves and
sewers.

By nightfall, 44 bodies had been found, including the body of
Maj. Gen. Shakil Ahmed, the commander of the guards, bringing the
confirmed death toll to 66, fire official Mizanur Rahman said.
Dozens more officers were missing. The search resumed Saturday.

While newly elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ended the
revolt in two days, persuading the mutinous guards to surrender
through promises of amnesty coupled with threats of military force,
the insurrection raised new questions about stability in this poor
South Asian nation.

She said Friday that there would be no amnesty for the killers.
And Dhaka's largest newspaper, the Daily Star, lauded Hasina in an
editorial for "sagacious handling of the situation which resulted
in the prevention of a further bloodbath."

But the bloodshed underlined the fragile relationship between
Bangladesh's civilian leaders and the military, which has stepped
in previously to quell what the generals considered dangerous
political instability. The country only returned to democracy in
January, two years after the army ousted the previous government
amid rioting over disputed election results.

Hasina has a bitter history with the military. She is the
daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh's independence leader
and its first head of state - from 1971 until a 1975 military coup
killed him, his wife and three sons.

The rebellion in the Bangladesh Rifles border force paralyzed
the capital and unsettled this nation of 150 million people.

"It's a setback for Sheikh Hasina's new government. It's now a
test for her how she handles the military," political analyst
Ataur Rahman said. "This tragic event will force her to divert her
attention from consolidating democracy and boosting the economy to
tackling the challenges of national security."

The army chief, Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed, met with Hasina at her home
in Dhaka late Friday, apparently to discuss the situation.

"It's a national crisis," Ahmed told reporters. "The military
will stand by the government."

Following the border guards' surrender Thursday, search teams
moved into the sprawling Bangladesh Rifles compound that houses the
guards and many of their families. They found the gruesome evidence
of the killings the guards had tried to conceal.

One corner of the compound, nestled under the shade of coconut
palms, held two mass graves where slain officers had been put into
shallow holes and covered with mounds of dirt. Firefighters used
crowbars to pry off manhole covers and recover more corpses stuffed
into sewers.

"We are digging out dozens of decomposing bodies dumped into
mass graves," army Brig. Gen. Abu Naim Shahidullah told the
private NTV network. All the victims appeared to be officers and
were wearing combat fatigues, he said.

Rescuers suspended the search at dusk, saying it was too
dangerous to keep probing a compound littered with live ammunition
and hand grenades.

"We don't want to take any chances," said Rahman, the
firefighter official. "We need more time to complete the job."

After meeting with relatives of the dead officers, Hasina
promised that amnesty would not apply to those responsible for the
killings. "No one has the right to kill anyone," she said.

Security forces, who set up roadblocks across the country,
arrested hundreds of border guards who tried to flee under cover of
darkness, many of them wearing civilian clothes. It remained
unclear whether the amnesty would apply to those guards who tried
to flee.

The insurrection erupted from the guards' longtime frustrations
that their pay hasn't kept pace with soldiers in the army - anger
aggravated by the rise in food prices that has accompanied the
global economic crisis. The guards earn about $100 a month.

The guards also didn't like the practice of appointing army
officers to head the Bangladesh Rifles. Border guards also do not
participate in U.N. peacekeeping missions, which bring additional
pay.

Dozens of families - particularly those related to senior border
guard officers - maintained a vigil outside the compound, waiting
for news. But with only bodies emerging, their hopes faded.

"Let me talk to my father. Where is my father?" cried
10-year-old Mohammad Rakib, who accompanied his mother to the
headquarters.

"We are waiting day and night here, but nobody can give us any
news," said Sazzad Hossain, supporting his sister who was
searching for her husband, Maj. Mamunur Rahman. "It's very
difficult to make my sister understand, she is devastated. We know
he is no more, we just want the body."


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