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Dhaka: 200 rebel BDR personnel arrested
Anisur Rahman in Dhaka | February 27, 2009 13:01 IST
Last Updated: February 27, 2009 15:00 IST
About 200 renegade Bangladesh Rifles personnel, who took part in the mutiny in the force over pay hike that virtually turned Dhaka into a battle zone, were on Friday arrested after a nationwide manhunt, even as more than 130 army officers remained missing.
"200 BDR personnel have been arrested from different parts of Dhaka as they fled their barracks after donning civil cloths despite orders to stay back inside the headquarters," a Rapid Action Battalion official said.
"We have been given orders to arrest the mutineers, we are searching buses and trucks for any other rebel troops and check points have been erected at all intersections," the RAB spokesman Commander Abul Kalam Azad said.
The manhunt for the mutineers began as the fate of more than 130 army officers taken hostage by border guards remained unclear as army units joined the police and security agencies in frantic search for them.
Though the officials put the death toll at 22, but it is feared that the figure could jump over 100 as discontented BDR jawans apparently dumped a lot of bodies in sewerage manholes. An armed force spokesman said only 31 out of the 168 officers present in the BDR headquarters in Pilkhana area at the time of uprising were accounted for.
As calm returned to the BDR headquarters, the Bangladesh home minister, Shahara Khatun and Army chief General Moeen U Ahmed entered the complex which was besieged by anxious relatives looking for their family members, as the police continued to search and retrieve bodies after the two-day old revolt.
The rebellion ended on Thursday night after tanks surrounded the huge complex in central Dhaka in a show of force to intimidate the mutineers to surrender.
Nearly 2,000 BDR personnel opened fire on their seniors--mostly officers drawn from the army at a meeting and seized the headquarters to protest against poor pay and working condition.
48 hours after the revolt, scores of senior army officers who were manning the top echelons of the force are still missing including the Director Major General Shakil Ahmed.
Lt Col Syed Quamruzzaman, an army officer who survived the attacks by BDR rank-and-file, said Ahmed was killed at the very onset of the rebellion. "Four soldiers jumped forward and killed Ahmed instantly as he stepped out of the meeting hall as the mutiny started on Wednesday," Quamruzzaman told media persons on Friday.
"The mutineers gunned down whoever they wanted. I was shot at seven times and was lucky to get out alive," he said. A suspected rebel BDR soldier being held by the RAB troops told media persons that the wife of the BDR chief was also killed.
Frantic search was carried out overnight at the BDR headquarters which bore the maximum damage with the main meeting halls and rooms pock marked by bullets holes.
TV channels showed a helmet was floating on the filthy waters inside a manhole but no body was found there, but rescuers earlier found bodies of several officers at an outlet of the swear system at the Kamrangirchar area.
Earlier, officials said 24 captive officers and stranded families of a number of others were rescued as the rebel soldiers laid down their arms.
Police said they found grenades and automatic assault rifles scattered all over the complex, but no bodies were found in the complex, as apparently they had been disposed off by the rebels before they caved in.
Four army tanks entered the BDR headquarters as troops joined the rescue campaign along with fthe ire service and the police. "This is a part of the rescue search," a military official told media persons.
Witnesses said at least two teams of the army personnel headed by two brigadier generals entered the paramilitary troops headquarters while senior government leaders also were at the scene to oversee the rescue operations.