A gunbattle inside the headquarters of Bangladesh’s border security force in the capital, Dhaka, killed a bystander and wounded seven others Wednesday.
Authorities were unclear what prompted the gunbattle, but an information ministry spokesman told CNN that several members of the Bangladesh Rifles force apparently staged a rebellion against the head of the force. A rickshaw puller was killed by a stray bullet, and a tea vendor and a college student were among the wounded passersby, said Shefali Baroi, a nurse at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Other hospitals may have taken in more of the wounded, and the casualty number may rise, she added. Shots still rang out from inside Bangladesh Rifles barracks hours after the gunbattle began in the morning. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s office asked the paramilitary troops to return to their barracks, saying in a statement that Hasina will meet with them personally to listen to their grievances, local media reported. “It’s a serious, serious incident,” said Mohammed Sajjad Haider, spokesman for the information ministry. “Some soldiers have decided to rebel. The gunfire coming from inside is so heavy that no one has been able to go inside.” The Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) is a paramilitary force, responsible for primarily guarding the country’s borders. The force, more than 65,000-strong, also takes part in operations such as monitoring polls. The Bangladeshi army descended on the Pilkhana area to secure it but had not moved inside the compound. Curious onlookers gathered outside only to scramble for cover, as sounds of gunfire periodically pierced the air. “I’ve been hearing gunfire all morning,” said Zunaid Kazi, a San Diego, California, resident who is staying at a house a few blocks from the headquarters. Watch him describe what he heard and saw of the unrest » “There will be a little lull and then the sustained gunfire will pick up again,” he said. “I can hear military helicopters in the sky. It’s very rattling.” The director general of the Bangladesh Rifles, Maj. Gen. Shakil Ahmed, was conducting a roll call inside the force’s headquarters when the gunfire began, the ministry said.
Several officers were trapped inside and their mobile phones were turned off, Haider said. “So it’s making it very difficult for us to get information on exactly what is going on right now.” The force’s headquarters are in Dhaka, but it has several outposts along the borders.