The above is a Google Earth image of the sprawling BDR headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka [click the image for a larger image]. Pilkhana is a sprawling compound surrounded by densely populated neighborhoods of Dhaka. Take a moment and ponder the size of the BDR compound.
After a 33 hour standoff with the government, the so-called BDR mutiny came to an end earlier this week. During the standoff, according to newly lowered estimates from the Bangladesh army, at least 59 army officers were killed by those inside the BDR compound. It is estimated that about 4000 heavily armed BDR soldiers were inside the compound holding, it was assumed, around 160 hostages. It is not known exactly when the army officers were killed, but reports from surviving officers suggest that they were killed within the first hour of the BDR soldiers’ rebellion.
The government, seeking to avoid massive bloodshed in the middle of Dhaka city, chose to hold talks with the BDR soldiers inside the compound. This led ultimately to the release of the remaining hostages and the end of the standoff after 33 hours.
Now, however, it is being argued by many in Bangladesh, within and outside the military, that the government should have allowed the army to launch an assault on the BDR headquarters. It is being argued that such an assault may have saved the lives of the army officers who were killed. Apparently, the government’s failure to order an assault caused the deaths of the army officers.
I am no expert in hostage rescue, but it seems to me that an assault with 10 or 12 tanks of the army, APCs, anti-aircraft weapons (!), and other assembled weapons of war against a heavily armed force of 4000 holding up to 160 hostages in a sprawling compound (in the middle of a densely populated city) would be neither quick nor easy. It seems to me that such an assault would have been a mass casualty event. I would think an assault on such a large target without knowing where the hostages were or what their condition was would require a great deal of planning – planning that would not be measured in minutes, but in hours and perhaps days. As a reference, one can look at the many long hours it took Indian army commandos to flush out only a handful of lightly armed terrorists from three buildings, an area of operations that is dwarfed by the BDR headquarters (and its many buildings). These things are only quick within the span of a 2 hour movie. In real life, it takes a little longer.
So, take a look at the image at the top of this post again. Does it look like an easy take down?
Mashuqur Rahman [http://www.docstrangelove.com] is one of the highest read Bangladeshi-American bloggers. Critically acclaimed for his incisive analysis on Bangladesh, US foreign policy and dedicated advocacy of human rights.