The Bangladesh army said Thursday, January 19 it had foiled a plot last month by some “religiously fanatic” Islamist officers to overthrow the elected government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, AFP reported.
“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 whole-hearted efforts of army soldiers,” the statement said, adding that the plot had been fomented by Bangladeshi expatriates in touch with “religiously fanatic army officers”.
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 in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries with a long history of coups and counter-coups.
Razzaq told local media that the plot involved up to 16 Islamist officers, both active and retired, raising fears about the prevalence of hardliners in the upper ranks of the 140,000-strong military.
Two retired officers including a colonel have been arrested and will be presented before a court of inquiry set up on December 28, while an alleged “co-planner” called Major Syed Ziaul Haq, a serving officer, is on the run.
Syed Ashraful Islam, the spokesman of the ruling Awami League party and an influential minister, said anyone found guilty would be handed “exemplary” punishment.