Nearly 50 people were killed when Bangladesh paramilitary troops fought among themselves during a mutiny in their headquarters over a pay dispute, a government minister said on Thursday, but reports say the violence has now spread to other towns.
No death or injuries were immediately reported in the towns where local police have told news agencies that violence has flared.
Nearly 50 people were killed when Bangladesh paramilitary troops fought among themselves during a mutiny in their headquarters over a pay dispute, Mohammad Quamrul Islam, state minister for law and parliamentary affairs, told reporters on Thursday.
Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh’s new prime minister, offered an amnesty to rebellious border guards on Wednesday, bringing an end to a day-long mutiny and battles in the centre of Dhaka that left at least one civilian passer-by dead and nine others injured.
The deal came during an hour-long meeting between Sheikh Hasina and representatives of mutinous members of the Bangladeshi Rifles, after a morning of heavy gun battles at the force’s Dhaka headquarters.
After the talks, Mohammed Towhid, one of the rebel border guards said: “We now hope to lay down our arms and go back to the barracks.” Details of the deal were not available.
The rebellion erupted on Wednesday morning as disgruntled members of the Bangladesh Rifles, a paramilitary border protection force, opened fire on senior officers, apparently infuriated by the failure to resolve long-standing grievances over pay, promotion and their exclusion from lucrative United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The regular army was mobilised to suppress the rebellion, leading to an intense five-hour battle round the compound, which is located in an upmarket Dhaka residential neighbourhood. Doctors said at least one civilian had been killed and nine others injured in the battle, in which army helicopters and anti-tank weapons were also engaged.
The rebellion represented a serious challenge for the new government of Sheikh Hasina, who won power in elections in December after two years of military rule. It came just a day after her own high-profile visit to the border guards.
Bangladesh has a long history of paralysing political violence, though many had hoped the recent elections would pave the way for the restoration of stability.
The mutinous troops said they were angry that their officers had not raised their demands for the same working conditions as regular soldiers. “We have always been neglected and continuing apathy towards our genuine demands has pushed our backs to the wall,” one of the mutineers told a Bangladeshi television channel.
The Bangladeshi Rifles are not members of the regular army but are a separate force under the civilian control of the interior ministry. Their officers, however, are seconded from the army, in effect putting a ceiling on the promotion prospects of those recruited directly to the force.
The Bangladeshi Rifles also resent their exclusion from UN peacekeeping missions, for which the army is a significant contributor. The UN assignments are highly coveted among Bangladeshi soldiers, since the participants receive international salaries and allowances far in excess of their usual local wages.
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