Frontier shootout issue�to dominate B''desh-India talks

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Anisur Rahman

Dhaka, Jan 17 (PTI) The border shootouts will dominateBangladesh-India talks as the top Home Ministry officials fromthe two countries are set to meet here for a two-day sessionthis week, reports said here today.

"There will be many issues on the table, but our mainfocus will be the non-stop killing of Bangladeshi citizensaround the borders," Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder wasquoted as saying by the Daily Star newspaper.

The paper quoted another senior Home Ministry officialas saying that Dhaka would register a strong protest againstthe "killing of innocent Bangladeshi civilians" on the borderas the two-day talks would start with the meeting of a jointworking group tomorrow.

Paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) chief Major GenRafiqul Islam last week told PTI the frontier force decided torefer the matter of the "trigger happiness" of India''s BorderSecurity Force to the Home Ministry with requests to take upthe issue with the higher authorities in India.

"I am simply disappointed... as our (BDR) efforts toconvince our counterparts to stop the killing visibly failed,"he said.

Leading rights group ''Odhikar'' earlier this monthreleased a report claiming that 74 Bangladeshis were killedand 72 others injured on the frontiers in the past one year.

"Fifty of the dead were killed in shootout and 24others were brutally tortured to death by BSF troops" alongsome 4,000-kilometers porous borders, it claimed but accordingto newspaper reports at least three more Bangladeshis werekilled in the past 10 days since Odhikar published the report.

The BDR Director General said the issue dominated hispast two talks with his counterpart in BSF while "every timethey assured us of looking into the matter as we asked them tofollow the rules of engagement and arrest and return thetrespassers instead of shooting them dead".

Officials, earlier said, the matter was also discussedduring Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina''s talks with hercounterpart Manmohan Singh in January last year in New Delhiwhile she again raised the issue with the Indian premier onthe sidelines of the SAARC summit in Thumphu later.

Hundreds of frontier villagers last week stagedprotests at northwestern Kurigram frontier after BSF menallegedly shot 15-year-old girl Falani as she was trying toreturn home from India, where she was engaged in a job.

Police and reports said Falani was shot in her rightshoulder and died instantly as her clothes got entangled inthe barbed wire fencing on the borders.

Home Minister Sahara Khatun yesterday said thatBangladesh would raise the killing of Felani in theSecretary-level talks.

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