Bangladesh raises 'commando force' with US help

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Dawki, Indo-Bangla border, Jan 6 (UNI) Bangladesh is raising a crack force to counter terrorism with help from the US Marines, a top BSF official said here today.

The new battalion, christened as Border Security Para Commando Special Force, is presently undergoing training at South Bangladesh in Rangamati, Cox Bazaar and Kaptal. Selected personnel from the Bangladesh infantry, Bangladesh Rifles', Rapid Action Battalion, ANSAR (an armed village defence paramilitary group) and medical corps are participating in this training exercise, the official said.

The US Army is coordinating this exercise at the Bangladesh army base at Jamalpur under Dhaka division. However, the actual training is being held in Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Similar exercises were also being carried out between the US and Bangladesh troops.

''The Americans are training Bangladeshi troops to raise a new elite commando force. This would be in India's interest. This crack team would carry out counter-terrorism and insurgency operations,'' the BSF official told UNI. In this connection, a security analyst, under the condition of anonymity said the Centre now sees the present military exercise in its own interest, especially with the growth of militant outfits and Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh.

The Border Security Para Commando Special Force would have 5 to 6 companies and a battalion strength of about 800 personnel each, he said.

However, political parties in Bangladesh have opposed US military presence in their soil.

On November 23 last, the amphibious assault warship USS Kearsarge anchored in Bangladesh waters purportedly to conduct ''Operation Sea Angel II'' for emergency relief operations after the cyclone - Sidr - hit Bangladesh.

The US warship, with 2,440 personnel on board, had earlier taken part in missions around the world including, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Kosovo War.

The political parties in Bangladesh had said sending warships for emergency relief operations were a ''threat to sovereignty of Bangladesh''. In fact, US Charge d' Affaires in Bangladesh Geeta Pasi said that the Marines were ''only for relief work.'' ''We were here before the cyclones, we were here during the initial emergency relief and we will be here to assist with relief and rehabilitation work,'' she reportedly said at a function to bid farewell to US Marines last month.

After the USS Kearsarge set sail, another warship ''Tarawa'' anchored in Bangladesh reportedly for a similar reason.

UNI RRK LL RP AS1858

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