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Mutinous paramilitary group accepts amnesty

MUTINOUS members of a Bangladesh paramilitary unit agreed to lay down their arms and accept an amnesty offered by the government, one of their officers said, after fighting over a pay dispute killed at least five people yesterday.

"We have agreed to surrender weapons following the assurances given by the premier to fulfill our demands," said the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) officer, who asked not to be identified.

Heavy gunfire had broken out in the morning as enlisted men met with officers over a pay and command dispute at the BDR's Dhaka headquarters, security officials said, sending civilians fleeing and leading to a stand-off with troops and police.

Bangladesh, a South Asian country of more than 140 million, has experienced several successful and failed military coups in its history but yesterday's fighting did not appear to be politically motivated.

Doctors at a Dhaka hospital said that they had received the bodies of five people and had treated another 15 who were wounded in the fighting.

NTV television showed several bodies lying on the ground near the BDR complex and said as many as 12 people, mostly soldiers, may have been killed although there was no official confirmation.

Police said that they recovered the bodies of two BDR troops from a canal near the unit's headquarters, although it was not clear how they died.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose party won elections in December, met some of the BDR mutineers yesterday in a bid to end the stand-off.


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