“The gunfire is still going on. We are not allowed to enter,” he added, declining to comment on speculation that the cause of the fighting was a mutiny within the force.
The Bangladesh Rifles are headquartered in the Bangladeshi capital’s Pilkhana area.
Nicholas Haque, reporting for Al Jazeera from Dhaka, said there had been heavy fighting since the morning.
“The fighting broke out, apparently, this morning during a meeting between junior and senior officers. There is panic on the streets right now. No-one is clear about what’s happening,” he said.
“They [a suspected paramilitary group] are shooting into civilian crowds around them…. it’s a very terrible reminder of what happened years ago when there was a coup.
‘Mutiny over pay’
“Fighting continues in the compound. There is no security, no police, there is no-one outside the compound… there are just civilians… apart from the army pointing their guns towards civilians.”
Private TV stations Bangla Vision and ETV, reporting live from the scene, said the guards came out of their barracks and seized a conference hall where officers were meeting.
The report said troops of the Bangladesh Rifles chanted slogans for more pay and better facilities.
Several bystanders outside the complex were injured and taken to state-run Dhaka Medical College Hospital, ETV reported.
Some of the troops also stormed out of the complex and seized a nearby shopping mall, ETV added.
The fighting occurred a day after Sheikh Hasina, the newly elected prime minister, visited the headquarters and addressed the troops, urging them to become “more disciplined and remain ever ready to guard the country’s frontiers”.Bangladesh has had a history of military coups and uprisings.Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s first elected president and the father of Hasina, was killed along with several of his family members in 1975.
The country, which secured its independence from Pakistan in 1971, has also experienced long spells of military rule.
Mutiny sparks fierce battle in Dhaka, coup denied
A fierce gun battle broke out on Wednesday inside the headquarters of Bangladesh’s border security force in the capital Dhaka after a mutiny by soldiers against their officers, officials said.
At least one person was killed and eight others were injured, medical sources said, as police and regular troops ringed the headquarters of the Bangladesh Rifles.
“There has been a huge exchange of gunfire at BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) headquarters complex this morning. We have heard mortar fire,” local police chief Nabojit Khisa said.
“The gunfire is still going on. We are not allowed to enter.”
Smoke could be seen coming from the complex, with security forces sealing the area off.
“The army has been called in. They have already started moving to the area,” said Colonel Rezaur Rahman, the deputy chief of Bangladesh’s elite internal security force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
“RAB officers have also circled the whole compound. But we have not moved in yet. Gunfire can be heard from inside.”
Official sources told AFP that the mutiny coincided with a meeting of senior Bangladesh Rifles officers at the headquarters in Dhaka’s Pilkhana area.
But they stressed that the mutiny was the result of a problem within the security force and was not a coup d’etat.
“It seems to be a mutiny of BDR (paramilitary) troops” against their regular army officers, an armed forces spokesman said.
In a statement, the Bangladeshi army called on the BDR troops to “surrender arms and go back to the barracks.”
“The honourable prime minister (Sheikh Hasina) will herself talk to you about your demand. Any soldiers who fail to give up arms after this announcement will be prosecuted,” the statement added.
Dhaka Medical College nurse Khademul Islam said four people have been admitted for treatment.
“At least four people including a BDR soldier have been admitted in the hospital with bullet injuries. Two of them have got bullet injuries in their chest,” he said.
Since winning independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh has had a history of coups and counter-coups.
The grindingly poor country was run by military dictator Hussain Mohammad Ershad from 1982 to 1990, before democracy was restored in 1991.
The army again stepped in in January 2007, cancelling elections and declaring a state of emergency following months of political unrest. Democracy was restored with elections last December.
Heavy gunfire in Bangladesh capital
A fierce gun battle has broken out inside the headquarters of Bangladesh’s border security force in the capital Dhaka, police say.
“There has been a huge exchange of gunfire at BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) headquarters complex this morning. We have heard mortar fire,” Nabojit Khisa, a local police chief, said on Wednesday