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Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 16:30 GMT
Troops resume Dhaka crime fight
Bangladeshi troops cordon off a Dhaka street
The soldiers went back to barracks just weeks ago
Bangladeshi authorities have ordered the army to resume its controversial anti-crime operation across the country.

The army will hand over the criminals to the police

Bangladeshi official
Soldiers began patrolling the streets of the capital, Dhaka, and five other cities early on Tuesday.

Troops returned to barracks early in January after allegations that more than 40 people had died in army custody.

Military officials say troops were called back in after a fresh surge in violent crime left more than 200 people dead in recent weeks.

More than 10,000 people were arrested in the operation, dubbed Clean Heart, including members of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the opposition.

Fresh violence

In October 2002, after the government was accused of failing to maintain law and order, Mrs Zia ordered the army to mount a "combined forces" operation to arrest "listed criminals".

Khaleda Zia
Prime Minister Zia faces a new crime surge
The opposition complained that it was being victimised after several of its leaders were detained.

Although crime rates fell dramatically, the death of many suspects in army custody raised concern at home and abroad.

Relatives of the dead said the suspects had been tortured but officials attributed many of the deaths to heart attacks.

This time round, soldiers themselves will not be arresting any suspects.

"The army will hand over the criminals to the police," officials were quoted by the Daily Star newspaper as saying.

"A police team will always accompany the army during the anti-crime drive."

Smaller scale

In January, the government passed a law granting soldiers immunity from trial for the deaths of suspects in their custody.

Troops on patrol
Soldiers are patrolling streets in six cities
Shortly after the law was passed, Operation Clean Heart ended.

But the government has come under fresh criticism since then, with nearly 200 people murdered and dozens of robberies and thefts around the country.

However, the current operations are on a smaller scale than Operation Clean Heart which involved about 40,000 members of the armed forces.

The BBC's Waliur Rahman in Dhaka says fewer than 2,000 soldiers were deployed in the country's largest cities on Tuesday.

They are being stationed at bus, train and ferry stations, as well as at cinemas and shopping malls, which have seen a rise in violent crime.

See also:

09 Jan 03 | South Asia
16 Dec 02 | South Asia
14 Dec 02 | South Asia
01 Nov 02 | South Asia
06 Nov 02 | South Asia
23 Nov 02 | South Asia
22 Jan 03 | Country profiles
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