Army foils coup plot against Hasina
The statement by an army spokesman came at a press briefing Thursday afternoon in the wake of the detention of key war crimes suspect Ghulam Azam as well as media reports that several fanatic former and serving army officers were trying to destabilise the country.
"Specific information (evidence) has been unearthed that some officers in active military service have been involved in the conspiracy to topple the system of democratic governance through the army," the spokesman said.
The spokesman, brigadier general Muhammad Masud Razzaq, branded these officers as having extreme religious views.
Brigadier Razzaq said retired lieutenant colonel Ehsan Yusuf and major Zakir have been placed under arrest on charges of government coup plot and that they "bluntly admitted their role in the plot".
When asked how many people were involved with the plot, he said he cannot be specific with the number until the investigation ends.
"But we believe 14 to 16 people may have been linked to the coup attempt. The army could thwart the move because it has proper chain of command in place," the spokesman added.
"We are not ruling out anything," came the reply from Gen Razzaq when asked if any foreign country was involved.
To a question as to whether Comilla GOC major general Kamruzzman was missing, as rumours had it, the spokesman said he was staying in Dhaka Cantonment's Log area with his family.
"There is no such thing as house arrest in the army," Gen Razzaq said when he was asked if the officer was placed under preventive arrest.
It is rare for the army in Bangladesh to hold a news conference, which lends gravity to the alleged plot to overthrow the government. Army's chief of general staff lieutenant general Moinul Islam, acting judge advocate general colonel Muhammed Sazzad Siddique and other senior officers were present.
The spokesman said the initial investigations found non-resident Bangladeshis (NRB) link to the plot.
"Recently, at the instigation of some of non-resident Bangladeshis, some serving as well as retired officers with extreme religious views have tried to create disorder in the army riding on the religious sentiments of other officers."
"Such heinous attempts are being foiled" by the army, Brig Razzaq said.
On Dec 28, a military court of inquiry was established. "Stern legal measures will be taken against those involved."
"Some unruly and derailed military officers have been actively engaged in the execution of the heinous conspiracy through maintaining contacts with fugitive Maj Zia (Syed Mohammad Ziaul Huq) by mobile phones and Internet," the spokesman said.
The spokesman said conspirator Maj Zia was an organiser of Hizb ut-Tahrir – an outfit banned here two and a half years ago on charges of running militancy.
"On Dec 22 last year, Maj Zia met a senior officer and tried to provoke that senior officer into using the army against the state and democracy," the spokesman said.
"The senior officer immediately informed the appropriate authorities and his (Maj Zia's) leave and transfer order was cancelled."
"But he did not return to work and has still kept himself engaged in trying to organise subversive activities against the army."
"Maj Zia on Dec 26 sent a provocative email to people known to him describing imaginary and unbelievable story of his arrest and torture. The story was uploaded in a blog site named Soldiers' Forum, too."
"Vernacular daily Amar Desh ran a report on Jan 3 on the blog post, creating confusion."
"Hizb ut-Tahrir distributed a leaflet on this on Jan 8."
Apparently referring to BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia's remarks at a Chittagong rally on Jan 9 that 'even army personnel are being abducted', Brig Razzaq said, "Even a large political party sang along imaginary, misleading and propagandist news to bring allegations, which created unexpected and provocative debate among the army and conscious citizens."
He declined to comment on the details of the plot but said they all were officers of "middle level".
The army said Maj Zia had discussed the plan on the phone with an expatriate named Ishrak Ahmed, who is possibly in Hong Kong now. Ishrak hails from Balubhara village of Barshail union of Naogaon.
A hardline Islamist group and forces that destroyed democracy in the past planned the coup. Some a vested newspaper, a banned militant organisation and platform of a political party were used for the propaganda, the spokesman added.