Dhaka mutineers 'casually opened fire on officers'

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The Independent Online

Security forces in Bangladesh have discovered the corpses of dozens of officers who had been thrown into mass graves during a mutiny by border guards that left at least 70 dead and many more missing.

A day after the 48-hour mutiny ended when paramilitaries from the Bangladeshi Rifles (BDR) laid down their arms and surrendered, officials said they were unclear how high the death toll might reach. At the same time, further details emerged of how the paramilitaries had casually opened fire on their own officers during a dispute over pay and conditions.

"We are digging out dozens of decomposing bodies dumped into mass graves," Brigadier Abu Naim Shahidullah told the NTV news channel. "We are still taking the bodies out, so I can’t give you an exact number." He said all of the victims appeared to be officers. Among the dead was the BDR’s commanding officer, Major General Shakil Ahmed.

Hundreds of mutineers have been arrested but many more appear to have fled their bases. Commander A K Azad, a spokesman for the elite Rapid Action Battalion, said more than 230 mutineers were rounded up yesterday on the outskirts of Dhaka, where the mutiny had begun.

"Bodies have been stuffed into manholes, thrown into ponds and tanks, while those alive were hiding, even in dirty sewer drains," Atiqul Islam, who had a relative among the dead, told Reuters.

Witness reports suggest the mutiny had been fixed for a time when officers from across the country where in Dhaka for a meeting.