x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Bangladesh military say they have foiled coup attempt

Brig Gen Muhammad Masud Razzaq said that the military has specific evidence that up to 16 current and former Bangladeshi military officers "with extreme religious views" were involved in the "heinous conspiracy".

DHAKA // The Bangladesh army said it had foiled a plot last month by some “religiously fanatic” serving officers to overthrow the elected government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“We have unearthed a heinous conspiracy to overthrow the democratic government through the army,” army spokesman Brigadier General Masud Razzaq said in a written statement.

“The attempt has been thwarted with the wholehearted efforts of army soldiers,” the statement said, adding that the plot had been fomented by Bangladeshi expatriates in touch with “religiously fanatic army officers”.

Mr Hasina’s government, which came to power in early 2009, made changes in June last year to bolster the secular character of the Bangladesh constitution, although Islam was retained as the state religion.

The move sparked a series of angry protests by Islamic activists.

Brig Gen Razzaq said two retired officers including a colonel had been arrested in connection with the conspiracy and he named a serving officer, Major Syed Ziaul Haq, as a “co-planner”.

“In an effort to implement his anti-state conspiracy, Maj Ziaul, now absconding, sent emails to different serving officers to execute his operation plans on January 9 and 10, 2012,” he said.

The spokesman named the outlawed Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir for circulating Maj Ziaul’s messages.

There were rumours online late last month about a foiled coup attempt after the nation’s main opposition leader Khaleda Zia accused the government of “incidences of disappearances” in the army.

The army hit back, terming the allegations “provocative and misleading”.

Bangladesh has a long history of military coups and counter-coups since gaining independence in 1971.

The country’s first president was assassinated during an army coup in 1975 and Bangladesh was run by the military dictator again from 1982 to 1990.

Democracy was restored in 1991, but street battles between Zia and Hasina’s supporters prompted the army to step in again in January 2007.

The government of Hasina, whose party won elections in 2009, was hit by a military rebellion later that year when 57 army officers were killed by renegade border guards.

The spokesman said the army has set up a court of inquiry on December 28 to try the alleged coup planners.