Sunday, April 14, 2024

6, not 72, army officers missing

Army rights its BDR massacre list; death toll stands at 85; 40 officers rescued
Julfikar Ali Manik

The namaz-e-janaza of 50 victims of the BDR headquarters massacre being held at the National Parade Square yesterday. Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain
The namaz-e-janaza of 50 victims of the BDR headquarters massacre being held at the National Parade Square yesterday. Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain

After reviewing information about how many army officers were in fact inside the BDR Pilkhana headquarters during the last week’s bloody carnage, the army authorities yesterday revised the number of missing officers down to six from the previous 72.
According to army sources, because of chaos and confusion in the aftermath of the massacre and hostage situation at Pilkhana over Wednesday and Thursday, they could not have the earlier figures based on solid facts.
At a press briefing Saturday, the director of military intelligence (MI) said 72 army officers deputed to BDR had been unaccounted for since the mutiny broke out.
Speaking at a briefing at the army headquarters last night, Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Sina Ibn Jamali said bodies of 53 army officers have been recovered so far. 40 officers have been rescued, and seven are still missing.
About the previous figures, he said, “Those were assumptions, and the numbers we are giving now are based on confirmed information.”
Meanwhile, an army source told this correspondent late at night that they had mistakenly included among the missing ones an officer whose body was already sent to his village home.
Other sources said 101/102 army officers were at BDR Pilkhana when disgruntled border troops seized control of the compound. They said it might take some more time to confirm the number and also the break-ups like how many have died and how many survived.
They said the confusion over the figures was because almost all bodies retrieved were in BDR uniforms and so they took many BDR personnel for army officers.
Morgue sources said there are now seven unidentified bodies in Dhaka Medical College and Mitford morgues.
So far, 40 officers are reported to have survived the butchery that ended Thursday evening after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina warned the mutineers of stern action. This leaves whereabouts of seven officers unanswered.
Colonel Gulzaruddin Ahmed, widely praised for his role in anti-militant campaign, is among those missing. The others are Lieutenant Colonel Elahi Manzoor Chowdhury, Major Ahmed Azizul Hakim, Major Kazi Ashraf Hossain, Major Abu Syed Dastagir and Captain Tanvir Haider Noor, said sources.
Besides, the rescuers have retrieved bodies of retired army officer Col Delwar and his wife and the slain BDR chief Major General Shakil Ahmed’s wife Naznin Shakil.
Civilian fatalities stand at five and the number of BDR personnel dead in the revolt is eight.
Meanwhile, rescuers drew a blank in their search for the missing ones in and around the Pilkhana headquarters yesterday. They also did not find any new place that might have corpses buried or dumped.
“One possibility is that a few officers might have been taken hostage by the mutineers fleeing the scene. Besides, there’s a chance that bodies dumped in the sewers have drifted far along the Buriganga,” said a source.
Meanwhile, new Director General of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) Brigadier General Md Mainul Islam told The Daily Star yesterday, “BDR is now carrying out duties at all border outposts. We have restored communications between the headquarters and the battalions.”
At an assembly of army men at Senakunja in Dhaka cantonment, a large number of officers requested Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to disband the paramilitary force and reconstitute it under a new name like Bangladesh Border Guards. The PM agreed to the idea in principle.
Sources said the government yesterday began the process of reorganising the border troops. Operational responsibilities of the paramilitaries would soon be re-delineated.
“The PM herself would announce the new name for the border force as well as some other changes,” said a source.
In the wake of the mutiny, many army officers in charge of BDR battalions had left their outposts on security concerns.
Some of them have joined work while others, who still do yet comfortable about the situation, are staying in contact with the headquarters from outside.
As of yesterday, the rescuers recovered a large number of grenades, ammunition magazines, and pistols from Pilkhana. The search for arms and ammunition will continue as new items are being found every day.
“It’s not possible to assess the amount of arms and ammunition used on Wednesday and Thursday till we finish collecting those outside the armoury.
“The Pilkhana compound is not yet fully functional. All official records on the armoury have been damaged. The personnel who might have known about the arms and ammunition are not available or missing,” said a source.
Some rescuers suspect that some mutineers might have taken small arms and grenades along with them. Boxes of some brand new arms that were yet to be designated to officers or troops were found open in the armoury and many of them are missing.
The vital documents being looked for by the rescuers include the laptop of the slain BDR DG Shakil Ahmed.
Meanwhile, the “Operation Rebel Hunt” spearheaded by the police aided by Bangladesh Army was not launched yesterday on schedule. The authorities have asked the army personnel to mobilise to circuit houses and DC offices across the country.

Courtesy of

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