Bangladesh says 4 civilians killed in border clash

Thu Jul 24, 2008 12:26pm BST


DHAKA, July 24 (Reuters) - Bangladeshi military officials on Thursday accused Indian troops of killing four civilians after a clash a week ago that briefly forced the closure of a crossing point between the two countries.

Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border guard operations commander Colonel Abdul Halim said that most of those killed at different times over the past week were farmers who lived close to the frontier.

He said they were shot and killed in unprovoked attacks by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF).

Bangladesh has lodged a formal protest with India over the killing of two of its border guards in the country's northern Chapainawabganj district on July 17.

Bangladeshi border guards returned fire in that incident, Halim said, killing one Indian guard.

Despite generally friendly relations, Indian and Bangladeshi border guards often exchange fire along their porous border which stretches 4,000 km (2,500 miles) through rice fields, hills, jungles, marshes and rivers.

India says its troops usually target smugglers and illegal migrants from Bangladesh, who sneak across the border, usually at night.

Talks between Bangladeshi and Indian officials were held in Kolkata, capital of India's West Bengal state, this week to try to resolve border disputes and other bilateral tensions.

"We are working with the Indian officials to defuse the tension. Hopefully things will turn normal shortly," Halim told Reuters.

Officials said a land crossing in Chapainawabganj that connects with West Bengal was closed on Wednesday amid fears of more violence.

"The port reopened on Thursday after battalion commanders of the BDR and BSF communicated and agreed to keep peace at the border," Halim said.

A Chapainawabganj resident said similar agreements had been broken in the past and that tension remained high in the area.

In 2001, at least 16 Indian and three Bangladeshi soldiers were killed in the worst clashes between the two countries. (Reporting by Azad Majumder; Writing by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Paul Tait)