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One dead in Bangladesh armed mutiny

world Updated: Feb 25, 2009 16:09 IST
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Bangladesh border guards launched a dramatic armed mutiny on Wednesday, taking officers hostage and sparking a fierce gunbattle in the capital that left one bystander dead and 13 people wounded.

Police and the regular army were called in to surround the headquarters of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), the border security force of the Southeast Asian nation, who reportedly took arms against their superiors over low pay.

Hours after the incident began, gunfire was still heard from inside.

Official sources told AFP that the mutiny broke out while senior officers were meeting at the headquarters of the Rifles -- which is home to 3,000 to 4,000 troops -- in the Pilkhana area of the capital, Dhaka.

"It seems to be a mutiny of BDR troops," who are paramilitaries, against their regular army officers, an armed forces spokesman said, adding the troops had even "fired at army helicopters hovering over their barracks."

"The army has been called in," said Colonel Rezaur Rahman, the deputy chief of Bangladesh's elite internal security force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

"RAB officers have also circled the whole compound," he said. "Gunfire can be heard from inside."

At least one bystander was killed and 13 others wounded, medical sources said.

In a statement, the Bangladesh army called on the renegade troops holed up inside the smoldering compound to "surrender and go back to the barracks."

"Any soldiers who fail to give up arms after this announcement will be prosecuted," the statement said.

An unnamed soldier described as a participant in the mutiny told ATN Bangla television that the mutineers would not give up and had "taken all the officers hostages said the BDR chief was injured or possibly killed in the fighting, but no official confirmation was available.

An AFP photograper at the scene said a four-member government team entered the compound holding white flags in an effort to open talks.

A spokesman at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Shahjahan Howlader, said many of the casualties confirmed so far were civilian bystanders caught in the crossfire on the streets of the capital.

The dead man was identified as a rickshaw puller.

Since winning independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh has had a history of political violence, coups and counter-coups.

The grindingly poor country was run by military dictator Hussain Mohammad Ershad from 1982 to 1990, before democracy was restored in 1991.

The army again stepped in in January 2007, cancelling elections and declaring a state of emergency following months of political unrest. Democracy was restored with elections last December.