Dhaka – The authorities have launched a joint operation to resolve the crisis after armed gunmen took more than 30 people, including foreign nationals, at a restaurant in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, officials said.
Army troops were moved in to resolve the crisis more than 10 hours as the personnel from paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh, Rapid Action Battalion, Navy and police with heavy weapons took positions.
The tense standoff carried into the early morning Saturday after two police officers were killed in a gunfight with armed assailants at the cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic district of Gulshan, police said.
The gunmen entered the Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant at about 8:45 pm Friday as a number of customers were having dinner, Benzir Ahmed, chief of the security force Rapid Action Battalion, said.
At least 20 diners were present when approximately eight gunmen stormed the eatery and began shooting, he told reporters. But the survivors say the number will be between 35 and 40.
The attackers shouted the Muslim phrase “Allah hu Akbar” (God is Great) while firing guns and setting off explosives inside the building, according to a staff member who managed to flee from the restaurant.
The security forces instructed the residents nearby the restaurant by megaphone to remain in their homes as they would begin operation to free the hostage in the morning.
A reporter covering the scene told dpa that several gunshots were heard after the army convoys entered the security cordon put nearly two kilometres within the crime scene.
The Islamic State extremist group took responsibility for the attack, according to reports.
Rita Katz, director of US-based SITE Intelligence group, said on Twitter that Islamic State claimed its commandos attacked the restaurant.
Quoting Amaq, one of Islamic State’s media arms, Katz wrote: “4th message from #ISIS’ Amaq about #DhakaAttack #Bangladesh: 24 killed &40 wounded so far, including foreigners.” ISIS is another term for Islamic State.
The claim could not be independently verified.
Police spokesman Sheikh Nazmul Alam said two officers – Salahuddin Ahmed and Rabiul Islam – were shot during in the gunfight and died at a hospital near the restaurant.
He said a dozen others are being treated at hospitals in Dhaka.