Bangladesh hostage siege: What we know so far

A Bangladeshi police officer gestures during a rescue operation as gunmen take position in a restaurant in the Dhaka’s high-security diplomatic district on July 2.
A Bangladeshi police officer gestures during a rescue operation as gunmen take position in a restaurant in the Dhaka’s high-security diplomatic district on July 2. PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA (AFP) – Twenty people have been killed in an attack on a Western-style cafe in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, with many hacked to death during the country’s worst hostage crisis in recent memory.

Bangladeshi troops stormed the upmarket Holey Artisan Bakery cafe after suspected Islamist militants took tens of diners hostage, gunning down six attackers.

Here’s what we know so far:

THE ATTACK

Gunmen burst into the cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter shortly before 9.30pm on Friday night, as people were eating dinner.

They set off explosives, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greater).

As a massive firefight broke out with police, the gunmen took up to 40 hostages, including many foreigners. Two police officers died in the gunfight.

The assailants separated out the Bangladeshis from non-locals and led foreign diners upstairs, according to the father of one diner.

They murdered 20 hostages during the course of the siege, hacking many to death with machetes.

Following an 11-hour stand-off, heavily armed commandos stormed the restaurant early Saturday morning.

The siege ended with six gunmen killed and one arrested. Some 13 hostages were freed.

 

THE TARGET

The Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant is a Western-style cafe popular for its large, leafy garden, situated in the affluent Gulshan district.

The diplomatic zone is home to many of the city’s expatriate workers and several foreign missions, as well as restaurants, upmarket malls and members’ clubs.

The incident took place near the city’s Nordic Club and the Qatar embassy.

ISIS CLAIMED RESPONSIBILITY

About four hours after the attack the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group claimed responsibility, via an ISIS-affiliated news agency, Amaq.

It later issued a number of photographs of what it said were scenes from inside the cafe showing what appeared to be several bodies lying in pools of blood.

The attackers were described by one army official as being aged 20-27 years old and “well-educated”.

FOREIGN NATIONALS AMONG THE HOSTAGES

The army said  many of the slain civilians were either Italian or Japanese.

Rome’s ambassador to Bangladesh Mario Palma told Italian state television that seven Italians were among the captives.

A Tokyo official said that several Japanese nationals were involved.

Sri Lanka said two of its nationals were among the hostages, but had been freed.

An Indian teenager, Tarushi Jain, 19, was among those killed, a government minister said.

RECENT VIOLENCE BY ISLAMIST MILITANTS

The attack follows a series of murders of foreigners, religious minorities and secular activists in Bangladesh, blamed on or claimed by Islamist militants.

Cesare Tavella, an Italian aid worker was shot dead in Gulshan last September in an attack claimed by ISIS.

And in 2012 a Saudi Arabian diplomat was shot dead in the diplomatic zone.

However, Friday's attack appears to have been on a much bigger scale and the first time that people were held hostage.

The government and police deny that ISIS is active in Bangladesh and blame homegrown militants for the killings.