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Second Mass Grave Found in Bangladesh

A second mass grave has been unearthed at the headquarters of the mutinous paramilitary border guards in the Bangladeshi capital. More than 75 bodies have been found, mostly senior military personnel, but dozens more officers have not been accounted for. Meanwhile, the head of the Bangladesh army is pledging support for the two-month-old civilian government amid fears soldiers will launch reprisal strikes for the slaying of so many of their colleagues and members of their families.

Amid a three-day period of national mourning, which began Friday, Bangladesh is still coming to grips with the extent of this week's massacre at the Dhaka headquarters of the paramilitary border guards.

Uniformed bodies of army officers, shot and bayoneted, continue to be found in mass graves at the compound of the force they commanded, the Bangladesh Rifles, known as the BDR.

Seeking to allay fears that a grieving and angry army could seek revenge against the mutinous paramilitaries, the army chief, General Moeen Ahmed, met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He is said to have pledged the military's loyalty to the civilian government and urged the nation to stay calm.

The prime minister is calling the uprising a well-planned conspiracy.

She says, at this point, all BDR members are presumed guilty and the government will find out who is responsible for the killings.

In an effort to end the two-day mutiny, the prime minister initially promised amnesty for the rebels. But the army's second-in-command, Lieutenant General Mohammad Abdul Mubin, says that is not going to happen.

The general declares the troops who took part in what he calls "barbaric and grisly acts" cannot be pardoned and will not be pardoned.

For a second day along the 4,000 kilometer long border with India, the BDR guards were not observed at their posts. Analysts and Indian media say it is unclear whether they are inside the barracks or have fled.

Several hundred soldiers of the Bangladesh Rifles, who either escaped from the scene of the carnage in Dhaka or abandoned their posts across the country, have been detained.

Rebels of the paramilitary force claimed they took action during the uprising to protest their poor pay and mistreatment by their commanders, who come from the army.

Bangladesh, since winning independence in a 1971 war with Pakistan, has suffered numerous military takeovers and coup attempts.

The prime minister's father, Sheikh Mujibuy Rahman, who was the country's first head of state, was killed in a 1975 military coup.

Ms. Hasina, previously prime minister for five years until 2001, regained power in democratic elections two months ago, ending a period of emergency rule by a military-backed government.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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