02/26/2009, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Dhaka, end of mutiny by border guards

A government spokesman says that "the crisis is over." This morning, tanks entered Dhaka, and there were fears of an escalation of the violence. Sources for AsiaNews speak of a situation of "discontent" among the troops of Bangladesh Rifle. Eyewitnesses say there was gunfire in the hospital of the capital.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - The mutiny of the Bangladesh Rifle has ended. The border guard units that revolted - leading to an exchange of gunfire with the army in Dhaka - have given up, lain down their arms, and freed the hostages being held inside the general headquarters.

This afternoon, a government spokesman said that "the crisis is over," but just a few hours earlier the situation of tension seemed about to erupt into a genuine civil war. Tanks had entered the capital; Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had promised to make whatever decision "necessary to put an end to the violence."

The mutiny by the border guards, who were infuriated over the failure of an agreement on pay, claimed at least 10 victims, but the number of dead could be higher than 50. At the moment, it is not known whether there are victims among the hostages who had been held in the general headquarters of the Bangladesh Rifle, in the hands of the rebels for more than 24 hours. Yesterday, two corpses were found near a drainage ditch in the area.

Sources for AsiaNews in Bangladesh confirm the "situation of discontent" among the border guards, who "have often been used by the army and by officials as cannon fodder: they are assigned guerrilla maneuvers, or high risk operations. It is a problem that has been dragging on for more than 20 years." Believed to be at the origin of the mutiny, in fact, is the "failure to give raises or benefits to the paramilitaries. The proposals advanced on the occasion of the holiday [celebrated last Tuesday, the day before the beginning of the mutiny] were not believed to be satisfactory." The Bangladesh Rifle are "more numerous than the regular army," but they are equipped "only with light weapons like rifles," and this, according to the source, prevented the "further escalation of the conflict. The military has more substantial resources, like the tanks used today."

AsiaNews has also gathered the testimony of a person trapped in a Bangladesh Medical College, one of the places involved in the gunfire between the army and the paramilitaries. "The battle," the source says, "came into the hospital itself. I saw one person fall to the ground, hit by a bullet in the head. The ground floor was a genuine battleground. We tried to take refuge on the upper floors, but then an army patrol blocked us at the fourth and fifth floors, until the situation calmed down." Witnesses talk about "deserted streets," the area around the general headquarters of the border guards "is isolated" and "a widespread sense of fear remains."

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