Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bangladesh to pull out soldiers

Bangladesh has decided to pull out troops from the south-eastern hill region, 12 years after signing a peace deal with tribal insurgents.

A brigade of troops comprising of three infantry battalions and 35 security camps will be withdrawn from the Chittagong Hill Tracts, officials say.

They say this will be the "biggest army withdrawal" from the area ever since the peace deal in 1997.

More than 8,500 troops and rebels were killed during the 20-year insurgency.

The rebels or the Shanti Bahini were fighting for greater autonomy in the mineral-rich Chittagong Hill Tracts, and to force the expulsion of Bengali-speaking immigrants, who were encouraged by successive governments to settle in tribal areas.

"The troop withdrawal will start immediately and all the 35 camps under three infantry brigades will be completely wound up by end-September," a defence ministry statement said.

"This is the biggest army withdrawal from the area after the accord was signed," the statement said.

Reports in the Bangladeshi media say that over 300 security camps in the area will remain after the first phase of withdrawal - they are expected to be pulled out in phases.

The government had given a general amnesty to tribal insurgents in the Chittagong Hill Tracts who surrender their weapons after the peace treaty.

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