50 feared dead in BDR’s 33-hour protest
Ashfaq Wares Khan writes from Dhaka
Rebel Bangladesh Rifles’ (BDR) troops surrendered on Thursday evening after army tanks rolled into Dhaka to end the bloody 33-hour siege of the headquarters that may have left at least 50 (army) officers dead.
“The situation is under complete control of the government,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s press secretary told reporters. "BDR members have completed the surrender of arms."
But it was still unclear as to how many had been killed during the mutiny, with Junior Law Minister Quamrul Islam saying that BDR troops had told him that 50 people may have died during the violent rebellion. The mutinous BDR troops, largely responsible for guarding the borders, had reached a deal with the government on Wednesday night to surrender their arms after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised them an amnesty.
But, the process stalled as they refused to surrender arms to the military, who had been the principal target of their mutiny. The rebellion spread to other areas in the country with several BDR battalions leaving their border posts after violence erupted in Cox's Bazaar, Chittagong and Naikhongchari in the south, Sylhet in the north-east, Rajshahi and Naogaon in the north-west. The commanding officers in all of these border posts had fled.
At the height of the tensions, the Prime Minister issued a warning to the rebels asking them to surrender or face consequences.
“We don't want to use force to break the standoff,” Hasina said. “But don't play with our patience. We will not hesitate to do whatever is needed to end the violence if peaceful means fail.”
Army tanks then rolled into the capital with a convoy of armoured personnel carriers and military bulldozers, which approached the headquarters in late afternoon. A team of five government ministers remained inside the headquarters engaged in intensive negotiations.
Intimidated by the strength of the government’s response, the guards hoisted a white flag and surrendered.