Bangladesh coup attempt ‘bid to bring in sharia law’

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The Bangladesh army says it has foiled a coup attempt by retired and serving officers, which intelligence sources said was driven by a campaign to introduce sharia law throughout the mostly Muslim country.

Impoverished Bangladesh has a history of coups, with army generals running the nation for 15 years until the end of 1990.

“Specific information has been unearthed that some officers in military service have been involved in the conspiracy to topple the system of democratic governance,” Brigadier General Muhammad Masud Razzaq told reporters yesterday.

He said about 16 former and active officers had been involved. Some were detained and would appear before a military court.

Sources in the army said the coup attempt was made late last month. “The attempt has been effectively controlled and now the process is on to punish the culprits,” one official said.

Neither prime minister Sheikh Hasina nor the home ministry made any comment, but addressing a rally outside Dhaka this week, Ms Hasina urged Bangladeshis to remain alert.

“Some vested quarters are trying to cause unrest in the country and in the disciplined forces in a bid to destabilise the government and disrupt democracy,” she said without naming one individual or group.

Political analysts said Ms Hasina was pointing the finger at her rivals, especially the leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, who are demanding the fall of the government.

An army-backed interim government, led by a former central bank governor, took power in January 2007 after a dispute between the two main parties over the make-up of the country’s election commission. An election in December 2008 brought Ms Hasina to power.