The Bangladeshi military has stopped a plot by a group of hardline officers to launch a coup against the Government, army officials say. It said those involved were religious extremists.

A military spokesman said yesterday the army had evidence that up to 16 current and former officers were part of a "heinous conspiracy" to overthrow the Government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"Specific information has been unearthed that some officers in military service have been involved in the conspiracy to topple the system of democratic governance."

He said the plot had been hatched by Bangladeshis living overseas and military officers "with extreme religious views".

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The spokesman said two of the retired officers involved, Lieutenant-Colonel Ehsan Yusuf and Major Zakir, had been arrested and authorities were looking for another former officer, Major Ziaul Haq.

Bangladesh is no stranger to coups; two of its Presidents, among them Hasina's father, were killed in such incidents and the country has had 19 failed attempts in its history.

Bangladesh has been a democracy since 1990, apart from 2007 to 2008, when it was ruled by technocrats backed by the military.

- Independent