Bangladesh border guards return to HQ after mutiny
Hundreds of Bangladeshi border guards started reporting back to their headquarters, two days after a bloody mutiny left at least 76 people dead and 72 others missing.Updated: Mar 01, 2009, 14:20 IST
Hundreds of Bangladeshi border guards started reporting back to their headquarters Sunday, two days after a bloody mutiny left at least 76 people dead and 72 others missing. The government said it plans to form a special tribunal to try those responsible.
The Home Ministry gave guards across the country a 24-hour ultimatum on Saturday to return to their posts or report to a police station - or face disciplinary action.
The insurrection - in which mostly army officers were killed - apparently erupted over the guards' long-standing complaints that their pay has not kept pace with the salaries of soldiers in the army.
Firefighters were still searching shallow graves and sewers on Sunday at the guards' headquarters in the capital, Dhaka, where the bodies of senior officers were hurriedly dumped by the mutineers. Workers also scoured nearby areas, including a pond, in an intense search for more victims.
A few hundred guards, some out of uniform and accompanied by family members, waited outside the headquarters as officials checked their credentials.
Some of the returning guards said they were on leave or off duty during the two-day mutiny that ended Thursday, while others claimed they fled the compound after the violence started. "Why should I be afraid of returning to work? I was not involved in the incident. I left to go to my family outside after the shooting began," said one guard who refused to give his name. Police said earlier that about 200 fleeing guards were arrested in and around the capital over the weekend, while those still left inside the compound after the mutiny were being kept at a hospital on the premises.
The government decided at a late night Cabinet meeting Saturday to form a special tribunal to try those behind the mutiny, ruling party spokesman Syed Ashraful Islam said.
Islam said initial evidence suggested the guards who rebelled may have had outside assistance. He did not elaborate. Army spokesman Brig Gen Mahmud Hossain said at least 33 officers survived the carnage, but 76 bodies have been recovered and 72 were still unaccounted for.
Among the dead was Maj Gen Shakil Ahmed, commander of the Bangladesh Rifles border force, and a woman that authorities believed was his wife.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who took office in January, sought to act decisively and quash questions about stability in the poor South Asian nation during the first major challenge her administration has faced.
Hasina ended the revolt in two days by persuading the guards to surrender Thursday with promises of an amnesty coupled with threats of military force.
Observers said Hasina handled the crisis well, but cautioned that tensions could erupt again.
"The elected government faced the mutiny in its own way without using any other force and all parties supported its move," said Muzaffer Ahmad, head of the Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International. "The whole incident has to be investigated and the grievances of the guards addressed properly."
Bangladesh returned to democracy after elections in late December 2008, nearly two years after an army-backed interim government took over amid street protests demanding electoral reforms.