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Over 1,000 mutineers wanted for murder, say police


Latest update : 2009-03-01

According to an ongoing police investigation into last week's Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) troop mutiny, over 1,000 soldiers are wanted for their role in an uprising that killed at least 80 people.

REUTERS - Special tribunals will try paramilitary mutineers who killed at least 80 people, mostly army officers, as more than 70 others remain missing on Sunday after the uprising, government and military officials said.

Witnesses said about 1,000 Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) troops who had fled their headquarters after the two-day mutiny, which broke out on Wednesday, had returned and were having their identities checked outside the complex in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka.

Police said they had identified up to 1,000 BDR members for investigation over the mutiny in a process that could lead to formal charges that include murder.

Government minister Syed Ashraful Islam said the decision to set up the tribunals was made at a cabinet meeting led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina late on Saturday.

No details about the tribunals were released but an investigation led by Home Minister Shahara Khatun has been told to hand down its first findings within a week, officials said.

Government officials said Hasina had told cabinet ministers and army chief General Moeen U. Ahmed during several hours of talks at army headquarters on Sunday that all those involved in the mutiny would be brought to justice.

One of the survivors, Lieutenant-Colonel Mohammad Salam, told reporters that not all BDR troops had taken part.

"Some even sheltered and saved their officers," he said.

Hasina's government will give 1 million taka ($14,520) to the families of each of the victims. The mutiny ended on Thursday after Hasina first offered an amnesty and then threatened stronger action.

Army spokesman Brigadier-General Mahmud Hasan said late on Saturday 72 officers were still missing after the mutiny by BDR border guards over pay and command disputes. The BDR's officers are usually seconded from regular army units.

Bangladesh army officials have described the mutiny as the biggest massacre of defence commanders anywhere in the world, saying the impoverished South Asian nation's powerful military may never recover from the blow.

The military however has pledged its loyalty to Hasina, who only came to office two months ago after winnning parliamentary elections in December that brought to an end two years of emergency rule by an army-backed interim government.

"We want the killers punished"

Hasan said the military would back the tribunals despite widespread anger over the killing of its officers. Security sources said the military wants quick action by the government.

"We want the killers identified and punished," Hasan said.

Bangladesh has suffered several military coups since independence in 1971 but this week's mutiny was not politically motivated, officials have said.

It still came as a blow to Hasina, who must convince much-needed foreign investors and aid donors she can bring stability to a country where 40 percent of the 140 million population live in poverty.

The government and military experts have said the rebellion was part of a conspiracy to destabilise Hasina's government and sow indiscipline in the security forces.

Hasan said 63 officers have been found dead so far, including BDR commander Major-General Shakil Ahmed, and another 23 were injured. About 20 members of the officers' families living on the base were killed as well, with claims that some were tortured. Ahmed's wife was also among the dead.

The grim search for missing officers continued on Sunday after at least two mass graves were uncovered inside the BDR complex. Bodies were also dumped in sewers and canals.

Date created : 2009-03-01