Heavy gunfire broke out early on Wednesday in Bangladesh, when some officers of the Bangladesh Rifles, the country’s paramilitary border force, revolted over better pay and working conditions. At least three people were killed and over a dozen injured in the violence. The situation was finally brought under control after PM Sheikh Hasina met the mutineering BDR officers and offered them amnesty.
Army troops take position outside the Bangladesh Rifles HK in Dhaka
For hours, gunfire and explosions could be heard from inside the headquarters of the Bangladeshi Rifles (BDR) in the capital Dhaka.
Television images showed thick smoke around the building and the dramatic scenes of chaos and panic.
All shops, schools and major streets near the BDR headquarters were closed down.
The tensions apparently broke out during a meeting between BDR troops, so-called jawans, and their senior officers, said Hamid ul Jamal, a political expert from Dhaka.
“The men in the BDR had some demands and went to the director general to have a discussion about them but the situation escalated.”
Director general taken hostage
The protesting paramilitary personnel then took control of the building and took the director general and other senior officers’ hostage.
The government sent in the army to control the situation but the firing from inside the complex did not come to an immediate end.
During the siege, one of the mutineers spoke to the Bangladeshi television station ATN by telephone: “We want the army soldiers to withdraw from here. We also want to make it clear that they are like our brothers. The army knows very well what kind of injustice is being done to the BDR soldiers.”
Upset over poor pay and working conditions
The Bangladesh Rifles, headed by an army general, constitute the country's main border security force. They reportedly revolted because they are upset over their work conditions and poor payment.
Retd. Gen. Sayad Muhammad Ibrahim, a defence expert from Dhaka, explained: “The BDR doesn’t want the military or the army to come. During the tenure of the caretaker government there were financial irregularities and soldiers complained that they were deprived of certain privileges.”
The firing finally stopped in the afternoon after Prime Minister Sheikh Hassina met some of the protesting troops at her residence in Dhaka. Government spokesman Jahangir Kabir Nanak told reporters that the prime minister had urged the mutineers to surrender. She also made an amnesty offer and said she would consider the demands of the BDR.
One of the leading mutineers, Mohammad Touhid later told reporters that they had agreed to surrender arms and return to their barracks.
The incident is the first major crisis faced by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, which came into power last December after two years of army-backed interim rule.