Militants killed 20 people, including at least nine Italians, seven Japanese and an American, inside an upmarket restaurant in Bangladesh’s capital, before security forces stormed the building and ended a 12-hour standoff yesterday.
Islamic State (IS) said it was responsible for one of the most brazen attacks in the South Asian nation’s history, but that claim has yet to be confirmed.
It marks a major escalation in a campaign by militants over the past 18 months that had targeted mostly individuals advocating a secular or liberal lifestyle in majority-Muslim Bangladesh with 160mn people.
The gunmen, who stormed the busy restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic area late on Friday night, ordered all Bangladeshis to stand up before they began killing foreigners, a source briefed on the police investigation said.
“Let the people of the crusader countries know that there is no safety for them as long as their aircraft are killing Muslims,” Islamic State said in a statement, also posting pictures of five fighters it said were involved in the attack.
Among the dead was the wife of an Italian businessman killed by a machete.
She was found by her husband after he spent all night hiding behind a tree outside the cafe while the gunmen were inside, said Agnese Barolo, a friend who lives in Dhaka and spoke to him.
Nine Italians were killed in the attack, the country’s foreign minister said, and authorities were trying to confirm the fate of another person missing.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said seven of its citizens had been confirmed dead in the attack, while one Indian, a 19-year-old female student, was killed in the assault, India’s foreign minister said on Twitter.
Emory University in Atlanta said in a statement that two of its students were among hostages who were killed.
Abinta Kabir, from Miami, was an undergraduate at Emory’s Oxford College, and Faraaz Hossain, who was from Dhaka, was a graduate student at the university’s Goizueta Business School, Emory said.
The US State Department confirmed one of those killed was a US citizen but did not identify the person.
The department said in a statement it was in close contact with the Bangladesh government and had offered to help with the investigation.
Thirteen hostages were rescued, including one Japanese and two Sri Lankans, the army said.
Six gunmen were killed during the police operation and one was captured, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in a TV broadcast after more than 100 commandos concluded their operation to clear the cafe.
Two police were killed in the initial assault.
“It was an extremely heinous act. What kind of Muslims are these people? They don’t have any religion,” Hasina said.
Declaring two days of national mourning, she said the country would stand up and fight the “terror threat” that has mushroomed in its backyard.
Qatar condemns terrorist attack
Qatar has condemned the terrorist attack in Dhaka. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, expressing “Qatar’s condemnation of the criminal act which contradicted all human and ethical values”. The statement reiterated “Qatar’s firm stance which rejects violence and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, whatever its motives and causes”. It conveyed Qatar’s condolences to the government and people of Bangladesh and wished the injured a speedy recovery. Qatar called on the international community to work harder together to combat violence and terrorism.
The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) has also strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Dhaka.
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