INVESTIGATORS SAY they have begun a search for the "powerful quarters" behind the revolt amid claims it may have been organised from abroad.
Officials yesterday filed murder cases against 1,000 border security guards of the Bangladesh Rifles as reports emerged in India and Bangladesh of a Pakistan-based plot to destabilise the new government of prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
The Times of India quoted sources close to the investigation claiming arrested mutineers had named a senior a Bangladeshi businessman and politician believed to have close links with Pakistan's intelligence service. It was also reported that confession statements suggested the mutineers had received around £100,000 to bankroll their revolt.
Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency has previously been accused of involvement in the attacks on Mumbai last November in which 173 were killed.
As the scale of carnage and the cruelty of the mutineers has emerged – including harrowing reports of the wives and children of some of the officers being mutilated – serious doubts have surfaced over whether such brutality would have been carried out simply over a pay dispute. The death toll is expected to rise further as investigators search for 70 officers who are still missing.
Investigators are expected to probe the extent of militant penetration of the Bangladesh Rifles by al-Qaeda linked groups like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, and also whether the uprising was linked to the prime minister's plans to establish a war-crimes tribunal to put on trial those who collaborated with the Pakistan Army in Bangladesh's war of independence.
A leading Bangladeshi newspaper quoted one member of the inquiry committee saying the mutiny could not have happened without the support of "powerful quarters."
A seven-member committee to investigate the revolt, led by the country's Home Minister, Sahara Khatun, formally began its investigation yesterday to establish how the massacre happened and who was behind it.
It is due to report next weekend, but its inquiry will take place in an increasingly febrile atmosphere as rumours of a plot to destabilise the government and force the army to take power gathered momentum.
The mutineers themselves originally told the prime minister they were rebelling over poor pay and promotion prospects and abuses by their officers, who were drawn from the army and not from the Bangladesh Riflemen themselves. They claimed discredited officers were often seconded to the Rifles as a 'punishment posting' and that they used the Riflemen for personal smuggling operations.
Members of the Bangladesh Rifles who fled their posts during the mutiny began to return to barracks yesterday (SUN) as detectives said police forces throughout the country were hunting 1,000 border guards wanted for the mutiny murders.
Dhaka police chief Nabojit Khisa Khisa said: "Cases have been filed against more than 1,000 BDR troops who were involved with the mutiny in Dhaka last week."
Officials said the ringleaders among them, including six who met prime minister Sheikh Hasina to negotiate an amnesty, would be hanged if found guilty.
Opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia, the former prime minister and leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, pledged her support for the inquiry but criticised Sheikh Hasina's initial amnesty offer to the rebels. "This gave them more time to kill more people and conceal their brutality," she said. #
First published in The Telegraph, London, March 1, 2009
Dean Nelson is with The Telegraph and writes from New Delhi, India