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10 more bodies found at Bangladesh mutiny site

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[February 28, 2009]  DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- Firefighters dug up 10 more bodies in mass graves at the headquarters of Bangladesh's border guards Saturday, raising the death toll to 76 in the force's two-day mutiny, officials said.

The bodies of dozens of senior officers were hurriedly dumped into shallow graves and sewers at the compound in the capital, Dhaka. Among the dead was Maj. Gen. Shakil Ahmed, the commander of the Bangladesh Rifles border force. Dozens more officers were missing, and workers scoured the compound and nearby areas, including a pond, in an intense search for more victims.

Restaurant"We think there are more bodies," said firefighter Sheikh Mohammad Shahjalal, adding that 10 bodies were dug up in two mass graves. They found at least one woman's body, which they believed was the commander's wife, Shahjalal said.

Meanwhile, funeral preparations were being made for 33 officials at an army stadium in Dhaka.

Newly elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ended the revolt in two days and persuaded the guards to surrender with promises of amnesty coupled with threats of military force. Security forces have arrested hundreds more.

Hasina said Friday that there would be no amnesty for the killers and her government gave border guards across the country 24 hours to return to their posts or report to a local police station.

Hasina was meeting with Cabinet members and senior military officials at her home on Saturday, her spokesman said.


The bloodshed raised new questions about stability in this poor South Asian nation and underlined the fragile relationship between Bangladesh's civilian leaders and the military, which has stepped in previously to quell what the generals considered dangerous political instability.

The country only returned to democracy in January, two years after the army ousted the previous government amid rioting over disputed election results.

Hasina has a bitter history with the military. Her father was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh's independence leader and its first head of state until a 1975 military coup killed him, his wife and three sons.

"It's a setback for Sheikh Hasina's new government. It's now a test for her how she handles the military," political analyst Ataur Rahman said. "This tragic event will force her to divert her attention from consolidating democracy and boosting the economy to tackling the challenges of national security."

The army chief, Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed, met Hasina at her home in Dhaka late Friday.

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"The military will stand by the government," Ahmed told reporters.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for calm and a peaceful resolution.

Following the border guards' surrender Thursday, search teams moved into the sprawling Bangladesh Rifles compound that houses the guards and many of their families. They found the gruesome evidence of the killings the guards had tried to conceal.

One corner of the compound, nestled under the shade of coconut palms, held two mass graves where slain officers had been put into shallow holes and covered with dirt. Firefighters used crowbars to pry off manhole covers and recover more corpses.

The insurrection erupted from the guards' longtime frustrations that their pay hasn't kept pace with soldiers in the army - anger aggravated by the rise in food prices that has accompanied the global economic crisis. The guards earn about $100 a month.

The guards also didn't like the practice of appointing army officers to head the Bangladesh Rifles. Border guards also do not participate in U.N. peacekeeping missions, which bring additional pay.


Associated Press writer Farid Hossain contributed to this report.

[Associated Press; By JULHAS ALAM]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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