20 hostages killed, 13 saved Those who re­cited verses from Holy Quran were spared

Dhaka café 10-hour stand­off

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

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

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