More graves found at BDR HQ; toll climbs to 77

The graves were found besides the garage of the 13th Rifles Battalion's office inside the BDR headquarters in Pilkhana in the heart of Dhaka.

Written by Agencies | Dhaka | Published: February 28, 2009 6:15:00 pm

Anger swept Bangladesh as three more graves with 10 bullet-riddled decomposed bodies,including that of slain BDR chief’s wife,were uncovered on Saturday,taking the toll in the two-day mutiny to 77 amid fears that the casualty figure could be much higher.

The graves were found besides the garage of the 13th Rifles Battalion’s office inside the BDR headquarters in Pilkhana in the heart of Dhaka,the scene of grisly killings during the uprising staged by armed renegade soldiers.

Among the 10 bodies retrieved this morning was that of BDR chief Maj Gen Shakil Ahmed’s wife Nazneen,a fire brigade official said. There was no word on the fate of the couple’s teenage son. Ahmed’s mutilated body was found dumped in a drain along with that of 41 Army officers.

Television images of disfigured bodies being scooped out of the graves sent fresh shock waves across the country.

“We think there are more bodies. We have recovered 10 so far… They are badly decomposed and many are mutilated,” Fire Service Operations chief Sheikh Mohammad Shahjalal said.

Bodies of 25 others,including three civilians,were also found from the premises and nearby in the last three days. Intense search was on for over 60 army officers who remained missing.

Fresh orders were issued by the government asking all personnel of the over 40,000-strong Bangladesh Rifles,agitating for more pay,additional food subsidy and holidays,to return to their barracks or report to a local police station within 24 hours.

The Sheikh Hasina government also announced setting up of special tribunals for quick and “exemplary punishment” to the “culprits” involved in the massacre.

In a nationally-televised statement shortly after the intervening midnight of Fri-Sat,Premier Sheikh Hasina’s Principal Staff Officer Lt Gen Mohammad Abdul Mubin declared that the amnesty announced earlier would not cover soldiers involved in killings,rebellion,arson and other heinous crimes.

Authorities promised fast track trial of culprits involved in the killing of army officers. “They (culprits) cannot be pardoned and will not be forgiven either,” Mubin said.

Bangladesh has a history of political violence,coups and counter-coups since its independence in 1971. The mutiny was the first major challenge to the Hasina government which assumed office lees than two months back.

Meanwhile,the Home Ministry warned of stern legal action if the soldiers,who had fled the BDR headquarters following the rebellion,failed to report in 24 hours.

“Against the backdrop of the rebellion that took place at the BDR headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka,the BDR personnel who still remained absent from their workplaces,are being ordered to report to their respective workplaces or BDR headquarters,nearest (BDR) sector or battalion headquarters or police stations in next 24 hours,” a Home Ministry press note said.

Elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police so far arrested some 200 of them while manhunts were underway to capture other fugitives as the left their barracks defying orders to stay back after the rebellion.

“We so far arrested some 200 BDR soldiers who fled their barracks,many of them with weapons like grenades and looted money and ornaments,” informed RAB’s additional superintendent M Qumruzzaman.

Hasina’s Principal Staff Officer,Lieutenant General Mohammad Abdul Mubin said the government decided to constitute special tribunals for quick and “exemplary punishment of the culprits” for such “barbaric and gruesome activities” incorporating “due representation” of army in investigation process.

Bangladesh yesterday announced three days of national mourning as the slain officers were set to be buried with state and military honour.

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