Mutiny In Bangladesh - Border Guard Mutiny Rocks Dhaka

. 2/25/09

Fighting reportedly broke out after a meeting between junior and senior officers

Bangladesh's border security force has mutinied in the capital Dhaka, triggering a gun battle that has resulted in several casualties, private TV stations have reported.

Soldiers belonging to Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), headquartered in Dhaka's Pilkhana area, chanted slogans for more pay and better facilities, reported Bangla Vision and ETV on Wednesday.

Unconfirmed reports said Major General Shakil Ahmed, director general of the BDR, had been taken hostage by the soldiers.

Other unconfirmed reports said several officers were killed in the munity and that Ahmed was among the dead.

Dhaka Medical College Hospital sources confirmed that at least six people were brought in with gun shot injuries.

A rickshaw puller died from bullet wounds sustained in the crossfire.

"There are grievances and this [mutiny], I guess, is a result of these grievances ... They [border guards] will engage in dialogue and I do not think they would go to the extent of forcing the army to move in violently"

Imtiaz Ahmed, international relations professor at Dhaka University

Nabojit Khisa, a local police chief, said: "There has been a huge exchange of gunfire at BDR headquarters complex this morning. We have heard mortar fire."

He added: "The gunfire is still going on. We are not allowed to enter."

Officials said that the army has been called in to bring the situation under control.

Nicholas Haque, reporting for Al Jazeera from Dhaka, said there had been heavy fighting since the morning.

"The fighting broke out apparently this morning during a meeting between junior and senior officers. There is panic on the streets right now. No-one is clear about what's happening," he said.

"They [a suspected paramilitary group] are shooting into civilian crowds around them.... it's a very terrible reminder of what happened years ago when there was a coup.

"Fighting continues in the compound. There is no security, no police, there is no-one outside the compound... there are just civilians... apart from the army pointing their guns towards civilians."

Imtiaz Ahmed, an international relations professor at Dhaka University, told Al Jazeera that in the past two years the border guards were used in many activities outside the role of border security, including distributing food, but "they didn't get anything in return".

"There are grievances and this [mutiny], I guess, is a result of these grievances," he said.

"...They [border guards] will engage in dialogue and I do not think they would go to the extent of forcing the army to move in violently.

"The terrain does not help in any way. The prime minister has already come out and said their grievances would be listened to and met."

The mutiny occurred a day after Sheikh Hasina, the newly elected prime minister, visited the BDR headquarters and addressed the troops, urging them to become "more disciplined and remain ever ready to guard the country's frontiers".

Bangladesh has had a history of military coups and uprisings.

Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh's first elected president and the father of Hasina, was killed along with several of his family members in 1975.

Bangladesh, which secured its independence from Pakistan in 1971, has also experienced long spells of military rule.

Source: Al Jazeera

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