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Coup attempt foiled, claims Bangladesh army

Dhaka: 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 "henious 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.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. AP/PTI

"A band of fanatic officers had been trying to oust the politically established government. Their attempt has been foiled," army spokesman Brigadier General Mohammad Masud Razzak told a crowded press conference in Dhaka today.

He said that 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 arrest were made.

He said the plot has been fomented by Bangladeshis expatriates in touch with "religiously fanatic army officers".

"The attempt has been thwarted with the whole hearted efforts of the Army soldiers," Razzak said in a written statement.

Talking 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 9 and 10 January.

He however declined to comment on the details of the plot or the suspects but said they all were officers of "middle level".

Bangladesh has a long history of coups and counter coups. The country was under direct or pseudo military rules for over a decade, since 15 August 1975, when the country's founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with most of his family members.

The Awami League led by Hasina, the daughter of Sheikh Mujib, assumed power in 2009 after the landmark victory in the 2008 December general elections.

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.

The alleged plot to overthrow the Awami League-led government comes amid earlier allegation by Khaleda Zia, the chief of the main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party last month, that army officers are now are becoming victims of "sudden disappearance".

PTI