The Border Security Force of India (BSF) shot dead two Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) soldiers at Raghunathpur border under Shibganj upazila in Chainawabganj early yesterday intruding into Bangladesh territory, sparking off tension at all frontiers around the country.
The killings coincided with foreign-secretary level talks between the two neighboring countries in New Delhi, and took place just hours after both sides on Thursday pledged more cooperation in enhancing cross-border trade and security.
BDR officials said BSF guards opened fired on their personnel when they challenged the latter for illegally entering about 1,300 yards into Bangladesh territory shortly after Thursday midnight.
A group of BSF guards from Neemtita camp under Murshidabad district entered Bangladesh crossing the River Padma on a speedboat and walked over a risen shoal to Raghunathpur village of Durlobhpur union under Shibganj upazila near pillar No 110.
Being informed, a patrol team of BDR from Raghunathpur border post led by Habilder Abdul Hannan Sarker rushed to the village and challenged the intruding BSF men for violating the line of control, reported our Chapainawabganj correspondent.
Two BSF bullets hit Hannan while six hit Lance Nayek Krishnopodo Saha as BSF men suddenly opened fire on them, killing them instantly.
Forces from the 39th rifles battalion later recovered the body of Hannan, 55 of Kritunia Durgahat vilage under Gabtoli in Bogra, and of Saha, 28, of Kholabari Shimakhali village under Shalikha upazila in Magura.
The bodies of the slain BDR soldiers were sent to their homes after post-mortem in Chapainawabganj Sadar Hospital.
Our staff correspondent from Rajshahi reported quoting a villager Atul Gani that the bodies were recovered from a pool of blood. "Blood marks were also on the trail of BSF men's escape path," said the villager.
Immediately after the killings, BDR retaliated with full force trading over 200 rounds of shots with BSF for about an hour.
"BSF intruded illegally and opened fire without any provocation," Director (Operation and Training) of BDR Col Abdul Halim told a hurriedly arranged news briefing at BDR Headquarters in Dhaka.
"In the face of BDR's counter attack, the BSF men fled leaving their speedboat behind," Halim said adding that they also arrested an Indian national from the spot.
"We've been informed that a BSF member also died in the gunfight," he told reporters. "The incident could have been prevented had the BSF not opened fire."
BDR strongly protested the incident. "It's a serious border violation by BSF," Lt Col Golam Kibria Md Neyamatullah, commanding officer (CO) of the 39th battalion, told The Daily Star.
BDR members seized the speedboat left by intruding BSF personnel, a walkie-talkie, a BSF cap, and bullet casings from the scene.
Terming the killings of BDR personnel by BSF a serious incident, Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury said Dhaka will protest to Delhi after getting a full probe report.
"We consider the murders a serious incident," Iftekhar told The Daily Star yesterday afternoon.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement condemned the killings.
BDR high officials including Commander of Rajshahi Sector Col Mohammad Iqbal, and the CO of the 39th battalion visited the spot yesterday morning.
The killings stirred tensions at other frontiers also where BDR deployed reinforcements ordering them to remain on high alert.
Our correspondents from bordering districts said reinforcements were made at the borders and were kept alert since the morning. Residents of border areas were also seen on guard shoulder to shoulder with BDR personnel.
BDR also warned villagers and farmers of border areas to refrain from going to zero point areas for cultivation. An uneasy calm has been prevailing at the frontiers.
BDR said BSF continues to fire on Bangladesh border guards and unarmed civilians despite repeated commitments in different forums for showing restraint and maintaining peace and harmony at the border.
At the flag meeting between sector commanders of BDR and BSF held at Masudpur border point in the afternoon, BSF defended their actions and rejected Bangladesh proposal for a joint investigation into the incident.
Rajshahi BDR sector commander Col Mohammad Iqbal and Bahrampur BSF sector commander DS Sidhu led their respective sides. BSF also did not admit that they had violated the international border but agreed to reduce tension on the borders, meeting sources said.
BBC Bangla Service, however, reported that BSF expressed regret for the killings at the flag meeting.
BSF spokesman Bikash Chandra told BBC that two BDR men were killed during a shootout between BSF and the cattle smugglers.
Bikash also said an Indian border guard was also seriously injured in the shootout. Echoing the story by BSF, India High Commission in Dhaka also claimed that the BSF exchanged fire with cattle smugglers.
"Smugglers fired at BSF who retaliated. A BSF constable sustained bullet injuries during the incident," said a press released issued by the Indian High Commission last night.