DHAKA, April 17, Reuter: Separatist tribal rebels killed at least 13 people and wounded 50 when they opened fire with machineguns in a crowded bazaar in Southern Bangladesh, local officials said today.

Members of the outlawed Shanti Bahini (Peace Force) opened fire after they surrounded the market at Gangacharanpara in the Chittagong Hill tracts, three miles (4.8 km) from the Indian border.

Five wounded were in serious condition, officials said.

The attack came just a week before the foreign ministers of India and Bangladesh were scheduled to meet in India for talks expected to focus on the insurgency.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Fakhruddin Ahmed told reporters yesterday his Indian counterpart, K.P.S. Menon, would pay a three-day visit to Dhaka from April 25 to “discuss all bilateral issues, particularly the tribal insurgency”.

The Shantis watn autonomy for the hill tracts, a 14,200 sq. km (5,500 sq. miles) area of hills and jungles bordering India and Burma.

They also demand expulsion of nontribal settlers from the area.

Bangladesh says India is blocking the return of 26,000 Chakma tribesman who fled across the border into India after the Shantis stepped up their attacks early last year.

New Delhi says there are at least 48,000 Bangladeshi Chakmas now in refugee camps in northeastern Tripura State, but denies it is preventing their return.

“We will discuss how this problem can be peacefully resolved so that all the Bangladeshi tribesmen can come back to their homes”, Ahmad said.

The government took a group of ambassadors stationed in Dhaka for a helicopter tour of the hill tracts earlier this week after charges by the Amnesty International Human Rights Group that Bangladeshi troops were torturing tribesmen.

Ahmad said the envoys were shown round development projects and visited the border areas. where the Shantis have been most active.

Article extracted from this publication >>  April 24, 1987