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Second military mass grave found in Dhaka

Video by Richard TOMPSETT

Latest update : 2009-02-28

Officials recovered 10 more bodies from a second mass grave on Saturday, with "many more" remaining. A day earlier the bodies of 38 murdered officers of the Bangladesh Rifles were found. The toll of the mutiny now stands at 76.

REUTERS - Bangladesh's powerful army has reaffirmed its support for the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after a mutiny by paramilitary troops killed at least 80 people, mostly army officers.

Army spokesman Brigadier-General Mahmud Hasan said 72 officers were still missing on Saturday after Wednesday's mutiny, which military experts said was the biggest massacre of defence commanders anywhere in the world.

"So far 63 officers have been found dead and 23 others were wounded," he said. Nearly 20 members of the officers' families were also killed by the mutinous troops, police said.

"The government must find out the killers and ensure that they receive exemplary punishment," Mahmud told reporters.

Earlier, army chief General Moeen U. Ahmed reaffirmed their loyalty to the government.

"Let me tell you all again that the Bangladesh army is subservient to the government," Moeen told reporters.

"We are a people's army serving the nation and upholding democracy. Please stay calm. We are trying to address the situation and resolve (disputes) with the help of everyone," he said on Friday.

The impoverished South Asian nation has suffered several military coups since independence in 1971. This week's mutiny by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border guards was over pay and command and was not politically motivated, officials said.

Hasina took office last month after winning an election in December that brought to an end two years of emergency rule by an army-backed government.

She must convince much-needed foreign investors and aid donors that she can bring stability to a country where 40 percent of the 140 million population live in poverty.

The mutiny ended late on Thursday when the rebels laid down their arms after an amnesty offer by Hasina was followed by threats of stronger action as regular troops, backed by tanks, surrounded the BDR complex in Dhaka.

Troops asked to return

Home Minister Shahara Khatun said there was no fear of a deterioration of law and order or a repeat of the mutiny, which spread to about a dozen smaller towns across Bangladesh.

But police said many BDR soldiers had fled the headquarters complex with arms and ammunition, as well as money and jewellery they had taken from the homes of dead officers.

The Defence Ministry on Saturday asked BDR troops who had fled to report to barracks, police stations or command centres within 24 hours or face unspecified punishment.

More than 200 fugitive BDR soldiers have been detained across the country.

More than 50 bodies were recovered on Friday, many from a mass grave and others from sewers and canals. BDR top commander Major-General Shakil Ahmed was among the dead.

Two more mass graves were found on the BDR compound on Saturday and searchers said they found at least another 10 bodies, including that of Ahmed's wife. The death toll could rise to more than 100, officials have said.

Journalists allowed into the homes of dead or missing officers saw walls and floors stained with blood.

The government appointed Brigadier-General Moinul Hossain as the new BDR chief. He said on Saturday the country's frontiers would be fully secure while he restored the chainof command of the paramilitary force.

BDR officers are usually drawn from regular army units and the mutiny was launched as officers arrived for a meeting.

A day of mourning was observed on Saturday, with flags flown at half mast across the country and special prayers said.

Opposition leader and former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia offered to cooperate with the government in its investigations into the mutiny but criticised Hasina for initially offering the BDR rebels an amnesty.

"This gave them time to kill more people and conceal their brutality," Khaleda told reporters.

Date created : 2009-02-28