Vol. 4 Num 213 Wed. December 31, 2003  
Front Page

Khaleda receives peacekeepers' bodies, as nation mourns today

The bodies of 15 Bangladesh peacekeepers, killed in the December 25 air crash in Benin, arrive in Dhaka at about 4:00pm today instead of morning, as the last farewell to the officers by the West African country was an hour late.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia will receive the bodies at Zia International Airport amid observance of a national mourning day, declared earlier from a cabinet meeting to mark the largest casualties in a single accident in Bangladesh Army since independence.

Bangladesh Army will accord a guard of honour to the officers, who were deployed to Benin's two strife-riven neighbouring countries Sierra Leone and Liberia on United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions

According to the latest from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), a UN chartered plane flying the bodies arrived at Nairobi airport at 12:00 noon Bangladesh time en route to Colombo to Dhaka.

The flight was scheduled to leave Nairobi after an eight-hour layover, but it could not take off because of a restriction of Nairobi Civil Aviation Authority that says a pilot must rest at least 12 hours to fly again.

"We are trying to bring the bodies home as early as possible, but something is beyond our control," said Lieutenant Colonel Nazrul Islam, ISPR director.

The plane is expected to arrive in Colombo at 7:00am from Nairobi and touch down in Dhaka shortly before 4:00pm if it takes off after a three-hour break in the capital of Sri Lanka.

The namaz-e-janaza was also deferred due to late arrival of the bodies of the 15 who were among the 119 people killed in the crash that came after the plane botched its takeoff, clipping a building before tumbling into the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

The bodies of Lieutenant Colonel Arefin, Major Abdur Rahim, Major Imtiaz, Major Mosharraf, Major Rawnak, Captain Farid Uddin, Captain Alauddin, Captain Rafiqul, Captain Abdul Mabud and Captain Rakibul will be buried in the military graveyard in Banani.

Major Mirza Baten, Major Mustafizur, Captain Arifur Rahman, Captain Zahidul and Senior Warrant Officer Shafiqul will be buried in family graveyards with full military honour.