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WikiLeaks: Death Squad Eyed in Terror Strategy

The elite Bangladeshi force Rapid Action Battalion clashes with a garment worker during a protest in Dhaka June 29, 2010. AFP/Getty Images

A Bangladeshi paramilitary force described by human rights organizations as a government death squad and eyed by the United States and the United Kingdom as part of their counterterrorism strategies received training from the British government.

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The Rapid Action Battalion, or RAB, might have received training from the U.S. government had diplomats not noted that it was illegal to assist groups with such poor human rights records, the Guardian newspaper of London reported Tuesday evening.

The disclosure comes from the trove of secret State Department cables released to a number of news outlets by the document-dumping website WikiLeaks.

The cables show that the U.S. and U.K. governments wanted to strengthen the battalion in order to reinforce counterterrorism operations in Bangladesh, the Guardian reported.

The British government's training for RAB officers began three years ago, the Guardian reported. Soldiers received training in "investigative interviewing techniques" and "rules of engagement", the Guardian reported.

Human rights activists estimate that the RAB has been behind more than 1,000 illegal deaths since it was formed six years ago, the Guardian reported. Battalion members have also been accused of using torture. Human Rights Watch described the RAB to the Guardian as a government death squad.

U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty described the battalion in a secret cable as the "enforcement organization best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation".

Moriarty wrote in another cable that Washington was "constrained by RAB's alleged human rights violations, which have rendered the organization ineligible to receive training or assistance" under U.S. laws barring funding or training for such military groups, the Guardian reported.

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