Dhaka cafe attack ends with 20 hostages among dead
Bangladeshi prime minister Shiekh Hasina has announced two days of national holiday mourning after an attack on a cafe in Dhaka left 28 people dead, including 20 hostages, most of whom were killed with sharp weapons.
In a televised address to the nation she called for unity against criminal elements following the attack in the diplomatic quarter of the Bangladesh’s capital in which six militants and two police officers were also killed.
Thirteen people were rescued after more than 100 Bangladeshi commandos stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery early on Saturday after the 12-hour siege
“I request everyone to unite against these handful criminals,” said Hasina.
She earlier said one of the gunmen had been captured alive in the dawn raid.
Lieutenant Colonel Rashidul Hasan told the Guardian that the identities of the 20 dead bodies were still being identified.
Brig General Nayeem Ashfaque Chowdhury said: “The terrorists killed the civilians last night. We have recovered huge cache of IED explosives and AK-22 assault rifles.
The deceased had been moved to the Combined military hospital in Dhaka for postmortem examinations.
Lt Col Tuhin Mohammad Masud, the officer in charge of Bangladeshi commandos, said the rescued hostages included a Japanese citizen, who was injured, and two Sri Lankans. He said there were casualties among other hostages but did not provide details. Earlier reports had said seven Italians were among those taken hostage at the cafe, which is popular with foreigners.
A police officer at the scene said that when security forces tried to enter the premises at the beginning of the siege they were met with a hail of bullets and grenades.
Television footage showed a number of police being led away from the site with blood on their faces and clothes. Heavily armed officers were seen standing on the street outside.
Local TV stations reported that the rescue operation began at 7.40am, about 10 hours after the gunmen took over the cafe.
The Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, said Italians were among the victims but would not give details or the toll until families had been notified. Renzi told reporters on Saturday that “we followed the events” in Dhaka “all night hoping for a different outcome”, and added that a government plane was flying to Dhaka.
Italian foreign minister later said the bodies of nine Italians have been identified.
India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, said an Indian girl was among the 20 hostages killed.
Swaraj said on Twitter that she was “extremely pained to share that the terrorists have killed Tarishi, an Indian girl who was taken hostage in the terror attack in Dhaka”.
She said she has spoken with the girl’s father and “conveyed her deepest condolences”.
On Saturday, US officials said an American citizen was among those killed, while Japan’s government confirmed that seven of its citizens were also among the victims.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe expressed his grief over the attack saying: “I feel profound anger that so many innocent people have lost their lives in the cruel and nefarious terrorism.”
“I strongly protest because it is a challenge against the universal values shared by the international community.”
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack and posted photos online via Amaq, its propaganda agency, which it claimed were of foreigners killed in the attack.
However, a senior minister said the jihadists were members of a homegrown Bangladeshi militant outfit.
“They are members of the Jamaeytul Mujahdeen Bangladesh,” home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said, referring to a group which has been banned inBangladesh for more than a decade.
“They have no connections with the Islamic State.”
One official said authorities had tried before to arrest five of the militants before.
Local media reported that gunmen had entered the cafe and opened fire at around 9.20pm.
Mohammad Jasimuddin, a member of the kitchen staff, was inside the restaurant when the gunmen stormed in. “There were about 50 to 60 staff inside. These people came and opened fire. We thought they were dacoits [bandits] and would leave after looting money and valuables,” he said.
“I heard them screaming Allahu Akbar [God is great] and firing shots,” he told the Guardian. “We thought they’d leave in 15 to 20 minutes, instead they went upstairs to the second floor [that was] under construction. They were firing from there.” He said that he and other employees jumped over barbed wire fences to escape. He estimated there were about 25 to 30 customers inside at the time.
A police constable named Kamruzzaman told the Guardian that the gunmen threw explosives from the second floor. “We reached the spot of the attack within seven minutes of the incident taking place,” he said. “They opened fire from there, we fired back.
“We tried to rescue a civilian but they shot him down. He was lying by the lakeside close to the restaurant,” Kamruzzaman added. “We didn’t know they had grenades in their possession.”
A local police station chief, Mohammed Salahuddin, was killed in the gunfight along with one other officer, confirmed Ashraful Karim, the assistant police commissioner and Salahuddin’s immediate superior.
Fazle Arshad Haque said he had not heard from his nephew who had been visiting the restaurant on Friday night with his girlfriend. “I live nearby. I come here with my daughter every day to have ice cream,” said Haque. He feared for his nephew’s safety and said he lacked confidence in the police. “There may be 10 million police, they are very incapable … Bangladesh is not prepared for this sort of things.”