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Toll in Bangladesh mutiny rises to 66

February 28, 2009|Associated Press

DHAKA, BANGLADESH — Firefighters searching the headquarters compound of Bangladesh's border guards Friday after a two-day mutiny uncovered the bodies of dozens of senior officers dumped into shallow graves and sewers.

By nightfall, 44 bodies had been recovered, including that of Maj. Gen. Shakil Ahmed, the commander of the guards, bringing the confirmed death toll to 66, fire official Mizanur Rahman said. Dozens more officers were missing.

Although newly elected Prime Minister Sheik Hasina Wajed ended the revolt in two days, persuading the mutinous guards to surrender through promises of amnesty coupled with threats of military force, the insurrection raised questions about stability in this poor South Asian nation.

She said Friday that there would be no amnesty for the killers. And Dhaka's largest newspaper, the Daily Star, lauded Wajed in an editorial for her "sagacious handling of the situation."

But the bloodshed underlined the fragile relationship between Bangladesh's civilian leaders and the military, which has frequently stepped in to quell what the generals considered dangerous political instability. The country returned to democracy last month, two years after the army ousted the previous government amid rioting over disputed election results.

Wajed has a bitter history with the military. Her father was Sheik Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh's independence leader and its first head of state, from 1971 to '75, when he was killed in a military coup, along with his wife and three sons.

After the mutineers' surrender Thursday, search teams moved into the sprawling Bangladesh Rifles compound, which houses the guards and many of their families. One corner of the compound, nestled under coconut palms, held two mass graves, shallow holes where slain officers had been put and covered with mounds of dirt. Firefighters used crowbars to pry off manhole covers and recover more corpses that had been stuffed into sewers.

"We are digging out dozens of decomposing bodies," army Brig. Gen. Abu Naim Shahidullah told the private NTV network. All the victims appeared to be officers and were wearing combat fatigues, he said.

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