Bangladesh army foils coup bid by rebels

Bangladesh army foils coup bid by rebels

The Bangladesh Army has foiled a coup plot by certain “religiously fanatic” serving and retired army officers to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and have arrested two former officers.

The “heinous conspiracy” was unearthed last month and two retired officers - Lt Col Ehsan Yousuf and Major Zakir - have been arrested while a serving officer Major Syed Mohammad Ziaul Huq, a co-planner is absconding.

“A band of fanatic officers had been trying to oust the politically established government.

Their attempt has been foiled,” army spokesman Brig Gen Mohammad Masud Razzak told a crowded press conference here on Thursday. He said the plot has been fomented by Bangladeshi expatriates in touch with “religiously fanatic army officers”.

Brig Razzak said 14 to 16 officers were under vigil as investigations were underway on the their suspected involvement while the arrested two former officers “bluntly admitted their role in the plot”. He declined to say when the arrests were made.

“The attempt has been thwarted with the wholehearted efforts of the Army soldiers,” Razzak said in a written statement. About the absconding officer, Razzak said Maj Huq, in an effort to implement his anti-state conspiracies, sent e-mails to different serving officers to execute his operation plans on January 9 and 10. He, however, declined to comment on the details of the plot or the suspects but said they all were officers of “middle level”.

The unravelling of the plot has come in the backdrop of the Bangladesh government prosecuting members of the right wing Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI)who collaborated with the Pakistani army in 1971 in its genocide in the former East Pakistan.

A number of JEI members have been prosecuted and the head of JeI, Golam Azam, is facing trial.

The prosecution and a crackdown on Islamist right wingers in Bangladesh began right earnest after Sheikh Hasina led her Awami League into power in 2008, defeating the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) headed by Begum Khaleda Zia.

Razzak said that “some unruly and derailed military officers have been actively engaged in the execution of the heinous conspiracy through maintaining contacts with fugitive Maj Zia by mobile phones and internet”.

He said the initial investigations found non-resident Bangladeshis (NRB) link to the plot while at least one of the officers, the fugitive major, was linked to banned Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir.

“Stringent legal measures will be taken against the persons involved in the conspiracy after proper investigation,” the army spokesman underlined.
Razzak said banking on the army in the past, “different evil forces availed political gains and made abortive attempts to do so but as an institution, military still has to bear the stigma”.

The alleged conspiracy against the government comes more than a year after five military officers were sentenced to five years of imprisonment in a court-martial for their “involvement” in attempted murder of Fazle Noor Taposh, the influential nephew of Hasina, after the bloody 2009 mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) frontier force.

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