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Bangladesh rebels surrender

world Updated: Feb 27, 2009 01:36 IST
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The mutiny by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) ended in Dhaka and six other locations across Bangladesh on Thursday evening, 34 hours after it began in the Pilkhana barracks in the country’s capital.

The stand-off left an estimated 100 people dead, though official sources placed the figure at 50.

Faced with an imminent army attack – tanks had moved into assault positions around the barracks in Dhaka — an estimated 15,000 rebellious BDR troopers, who guard that country’s 4,053-km long border with India, surrendered their arms and freed the 19 army personnel they had taken as hostages. The 40,000-strong BDR is the Bangladeshi counterpart of India’s Border Security Force.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had announced amnesty for all the rebels, but had also warned of stern action if they did not surrender.

Armed policemen then entered the BDR compounds and took control.

“The situation is under the complete control of the government,” the prime minister’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad said at about 7.00 pm (Bangladesh time).

A short while later, the Hasina government announced the formation of a high-powered committee headed by home minister Sahara Khatun to look into and redress the grievances of BDR personnel.

The government also appointed a BDR officer, Subedar Major Touhid Islam, as the acting commander of the force. It also withdrew all army personnel, who have always headed BDR and held other key positions in it, from the organization.

Their highhanded behaviour with the BDR rank and file was one of the key factors that led to the mutiny. Removing them was a key demand of the mutineers.

BDR Director General Shakil Ahmed, an army major general on deputation to the border guards, was reportedly killed but his body had not been found till the time of going to the press.

Earlier, at 4.45 pm, Khatun entered the under-siege BDR headquarters in the capital for the second time to broker peace.

A short while later, the rebels, who wanted higher pay and less interference in their organization by the army, put up white flags on several windows.

As news of the Dhaka surrender spread, the rebels in the six other centres also surrendered.

(Rahman Jahangir is a Bangladeshi journalist in Dhaka).