Thousands attend mass funeral in Bangladesh

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis attended a state funeral today for dozens of army officers killed in a mutiny last week, as a think-tank warned there was still a significant risk of conflict in the country.

The rebellion by paramilitary troops at their Dhaka headquarters was put down within two days, but the brazen attacks highlighted the security concerns confronting the 2-month-old government.



The mutiny by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border guards, over pay and the command structure, spread to about a dozen smaller towns across Bangladesh. At least 80 people, most of them officers, were killed.



At a mass funeral in the capital today, national and army flags were draped over the coffins. Buglers played the Last Post, and relatives wept.



"He has paid so dearly for all the good services rendered to the country. I only pray he gets justice from God and peace in heaven," said the wife of a dead officer.



Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered a special tribunal try the killers, and has sought help from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Britain's Scotland Yard.



Tensions simmer

The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, said "the spread of mutinies to other BDR barracks threatened to spark violence across the country amid fears of retaliation by the military, including a takeover.



"But steps taken by the government appear to have reduced the threat of any coup," it said. "It highlights Bangladesh as a significant conflict risk alert for March, as tensions within and surrounding the military continue to simmer."



The military at the weekend pledged its loyalty to Hasina, who came to office two months ago after winning a parliamentary election that brought to an end two years of emergency rule by an army-backed interim government.



Bangladesh has suffered several military coups since independence in 1971 but officials have said this mutiny was not politically motivated.



But Hasina must do more to end discontent in the rank and file of the army to secure the democracy, a government official said.



The mutiny came as a blow to Hasina, who must convince foreign investors and aid donors she can bring stability to a country where 40 percent of the 140 million population live in poverty.



"Clearly it (mutiny) was a pre-planned incident. But how it happened in an area where access of people is restricted has to be uncovered," said Arefin Siddique, Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University.



Police said they had identified up to 1,000 BDR members as suspects, and some could be charged with murder.



"The killers were so efficient in doing their jobs and concealing (bodies) that we are finding it really hard to uncover them," said Mizanur Rahman, a fire brigade official leading the search at the BDR headquarters on Monday.



Sixty-five bodies of officers have been recovered from mass graves, sewers, drains and canals within the BDR complex, but at least 70 officers are still missing, believed dead.

Comments