‘In the 1971 war,we lost 51 officers. Mutiny claimed 135 in A few hours’

Emotions gripped thousands of mourners on Monday as they offered funeral prayers for slain army officers,who were killed during the two-day mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles soldiers.

Written by Press Trust Of India | Dhaka | Published: March 3, 2009 12:42:59 am

Emotions gripped thousands of mourners on Monday as they offered funeral prayers for slain army officers,who were killed during the two-day mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) soldiers.

A 21-gun salute was given as the army trucks carried bodies of 50 mutiny victims,including those of Major General Shakil and his wife Begum Nazneen Shakil,wrapped in the national flag to the National Parade Square here in Dhaka.

President Zillur Rahman,council of ministers,chiefs of the three services,politicians,lawmakers,military officials and civilians attended the funeral prayers.

There were tears in the eyes of mourners as a military officer read out the names of the slain officers. While the funeral prayers were being held,searches were underway for some 70 missing army officers who were serving in the paramilitary force during the mutiny.

“During the 1971 Liberation War,we lost 51 officers in nine months. The mutiny claimed 135 in few hours,” Bangladesh’s first Army Chief Maj Gen (retd) M Shafiullah said.

Earlier on Friday,the namaz-e-janaza of seven BDR officers killed in the same incident was held at the Army Central Mosque in the Dhaka Cantonment.

Meanwhile,a senior BDR officer,identified as the “ring leader” of the mutiny,was arrested and a massive manhunt was underway to track down 1,000 more fugitive soldiers facing murder charges.

Touhidul Alam,Deputy Assistant Director of the BDR,who led a rebel delegation in talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,has been taken into custody while attempting to flee the country,said Nabo Jyoti Khisha,the chief of Lalbagh police station where a case has been filed.

“The massacre took place under his (Alam’s) leadership… the rebels had accepted him as their leader,” Khisha said.

Suspecting conspiracy behind the mutiny,Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sought help from the FBI and the Scotland Yard to probe the massacre.

The Home Ministry has put out a notice,asking people to inform their nearest police stations immediately if they have any information about absconding BDR personnel.

The former military ruler of Bangladesh,H M Ershad,has suggested the paramilitary BDR should be disbanded. Seventy-nine-year-old Ershad,the chairman of the Jatiya Party,suggested that the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) be disbanded “if you call it a mutiny”.

“According to law,this organisation should be disbanded if you call it a mutiny,” the former President was quoted as saying by the private bdnews24 online on Monday.

Speaking in Parliament on Sunday,the former Army Chief who ruled the country with an iron hand from 1982 1991,recalled an incident where one of the units of the armed forces was disbanded after a mutiny in one of the unit.Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered the military to join the manhunt for the mutineers and has also sought help from US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Britain’s Scotland Yard for the probe.

US envoy James F Moriarty met the Foreign Minister Dipu Moni. He assured that Washington will provide assistance. Moni also said a similar assurance had been given by the British High Commissioner. Moni,the Daily Star reported,had asked for Scotland Yard expertise to Bangladesh to investigate the mutiny.

Meanwhile,the case has been handed over to Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police.

The case will be investigated by the Senior Additional Superintendent Abdul Kahhar Akand,the official who was the investigation officer of the murder case of Bangladesh founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

On Monday evening,the Bangladesh Government decided to reorganise and rename BDR. “The Government in principle decided to rename and reorganise Bangladesh Rifles as soon as possible,” Chief of General Staff of Army Sinha Ibne Jamali said here.

He added the new name of the troops has not yet been finalised and discussions are underway on the matter.

Meanwhile,Pakistan rubbished media reports alleging its involvement in the internal affairs of Bangladesh in the wake of the rebellion by BDR soldiers.

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