/ 3 March 2009

Bangladesh military launches rival mutiny probe

The Bangladesh military on Tuesday launched its own probe into a savage mutiny by troops against their officers, raising fears of a power struggle between the army and the newly elected civilian government.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who won polls in December that ended two years of army rule in the country, had already set up an investigation into the revolt in which 74 people died.

But Bangladesh’s chief of general staff said the military needed to hold a separate probe that would be independent of the elected government.

”We want a neutral investigation to take place,” Lieutenant General Sina Ibne Jamali told reporters, adding that the army’s second-in-command, Lieutenant General Jahangir Alam Chowdhury, would lead the inquiry.

Analysts said the move exposed the tensions between the government and the army, which is reportedly furious that Hasina at first promised an amnesty for the mutineers.

Hasina has since said those responsible for the killings must be punished, prompting the army to pledge her its public support.

The soldiers fled the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) compound on Thursday, apparently dressed as civilians, after a 33-hour mutiny that turned the capital into a battle zone.

They left behind gruesome scenes with scores of bodies, many mutilated by bayonets, dumped in mass graves or thrown down drains.

The revolt stemmed from a dispute over pay and conditions in the BDR force, whose duties include guarding Bangladesh’s long border with India.

On Tuesday Hasina cancelled an upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, apparently reluctant to leave the country while her hold on power was threatened.

Bangladesh’s short history has been steeped in political bloodshed, coups and counter-coups since a brutal 1971 war brought independence from Pakistan. — AFP