20 hostages killed, 13 saved Those who recited verses from Holy Quran were spared
Dhaka café 10-hour standoff
DHAKA—Bangladeshi forces stormed an upscale Dhaka restaurant to end a hostage-taking by heavily armed militants early Saturday, killing six of the attackers and rescuing 13 captives including foreigners. The military said 20 hostages were killed during the 10-hour standoff, and a survivor’s father said the attackers spared people who could recite verses from the Quran.
Nine Italians were among those killed in Friday’s attack by Islamist militants, with another Italian still unaccounted for, Italy’s foreign minister said on Saturday.
“We have identified nine (Italians) killed, there is another person who is missing and could be hiding himself or could be among wounded people … we are looking for him,” Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told reporters.
About 35 people were taken hostage Friday night when gunmen stormed the popular Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s Gulshan area, a diplomatic zone. Two police officers were killed at the start of the attack.
Paramilitary troops who mounted the rescue operations in the morning killed six attackers and recovered explosive devices and sharp weapons from the scene, Brig. Gen. Nayeem Ashfaq Chowdhury said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina condemned the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, and she said security officials arrested one of the militants.
“Because of the effort of the joint force, the terrorists could not flee,” Hasina said in a nationally televised speech, vowing to fight militant attacks in the country and urged people to come forward.
“Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such act,” Hasina said. “They do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism.”
Japan’s government said a Japanese hostage was rescued with a gunshot wound but seven others are unaccounted for. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda said the eight were together at the restaurant during the attack.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed that a young Indian woman was among those killed in the attack.
Two Sri Lankans also were rescued, said Lt. Col. Tuhin Mohammad Masud, commander of the Rapid Action Battalion that conducted the rescue operations. Others included an Argentine and two Bangladeshis, local media reported.
Kitchen staffer Sumon Reza, who escaped, said the attackers chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) as they assaulted around 9:20 p.m. Friday, initially opening fire with blanks.
Another survivor said the gunmen ordered bakery workers to switch off the lights in the restaurant. The militants then covered close-circuit cameras with black cloth.
The bakery worker, who was not identified, told ATN News, a Bangladesh television channel, that when the first attacker entered the gate he save us, please!’ And he hung up,” he said.
Karim said his son told him that the attackers “did not hit people who could recite verses from the Quran. The others were tortured,” he said.
“The gunmen asked everyone inside to recite from the Quran. Those who recited were spared. The gunmen even gave them meals last night,” Karim said.
He said detectives were questioning his son and his family as part of the investigation.
Police said the two officers died at a hospital after being wounded in the initial gunfire. Ten of 26 people who were wounded when the militants opened fire were in critical condition, and six were on life support, according to hospital staff. The injuries ranged from broken bones to gunshot wounds. Only one civilian was among the wounded.
In Washington, a White House official said President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack by his chief counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco. The president asked to be kept informed as the situation develops, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the president’s meetings.
State Department spokesman John Kirby says the U.S. is in contact with the Bangladesh government and has offered its assistance to bring those responsible to justice.
The recent attacks in Bangladesh have raised fears that religious extremists are gaining a foothold in the country, despite its traditions of secularism and tolerance.
About two dozen atheist writers, publishers, members of religious minorities, social activists and foreign aid workers have been slain since 2013. On Friday, a Hindu temple worker was hacked to death by at least three assailants in southwest Bangladesh. IS and and alQaida affiliates have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks.—Agencies