A mutiny by members of a paramilitary force appeared to have spread beyond the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, to other towns, as Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Cabinet members met in an emergency session Thursday.
Police in about six other towns reported shooting incidents involving Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) troops, as a standoff at their Dhaka headquarters entered its second day, a government official told CNN. The incidents do not appear to have resulted in casualties. The official did not want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The standoff at the Rifles headquarters began Wednesday morning when paramilitary troops took dozens of high-ranking officers and military brass hostage after a fiery gunbattle. At least 50 officers and civilians were feared dead in the gunfire, the country’s law minister said. Watch a witness describe seeing and hearing the gunbattle » As dawn broke, the rebelling Rifles troops allowed government officials entry into the headquarters. The troops had initially agreed to lay down their arms after the prime minister agreed to offer them amnesty.
Dozens feared dead in Bangladesh mutiny
Ministers who were allowed to enter went door to door within the compound’s officers’ quarters to assure frightened women and children it was safe to come out. “Nearly 50 people have been killed in sporadic fighting in the headquarters of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR),” Mohammad Quamrul Islam, state minister for law and parliamentary affairs told reporters. Along with military officials and BDR brass, the dead and wounded included passersby, including a rickshaw puller, who were struck by stray bullets during the gun battle, the Dhaka Medical College Hospital said. CNN was not immediately able to confirm the exact casualty count, with medical officials saying a final number would come after they had a chance to comb through the premises looking for bodies. Meanwhile, at least six bodies were recovered from rivers and drainage ditches. At least two of them had on military uniforms, government officials said. The men had been killed and their bodies dumped in sewers, authorities said. They were recovered after they floated for miles down rivers. The Rifles are responsible primarily for guarding the country’s borders. The force, more than 65,000-strong, also takes part in operations such as monitoring polls. The troops staged their rebellion on the second day of BDR Week when officers and troop members from various BDR outposts along the border were in the capital for celebrations.
At least 5,000 BDR personnel were inside the compound when the mutiny occurred about 7:45 a.m. local time Wednesday, said Mohammed Sajjad Haider, spokesman for the information ministry. The rebelling troops were low-ranking members of the BDR, akin to infantrymen, who were angry at the way they were treated by their superiors, Haider said.