Bangladesh terrorist attack leaves 20 civilians, all foreigners, dead

Twenty civilians, all of them foreign nationals, were killed together with two police officers in an attack on a restaurant in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, the military said Saturday.

Bangladeshi troops stormed the restaurant and killed six terrorists who had taken people hostage, before recovering the bodies of 20 civilians, the army's press wing said.

The military's spokesman, Brigadier Nayeem Ashfaq Chowdhry of Bangladesh Army, didn't mention the nationalities of the victims, but in Rome, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi confirmed that Italians were among the victims.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said a 19-year-old Indian girl had died in the attack.

Foreign ministry sources said 11 Italians were inside the restaurant when it was attacked, and that one managed to escape. One or more Japanese citizens were among the hostages, diplomats said.

Speaking from the government headquarters of Palazzo Chigi in Rome, Renzi called for a united response against terrorism in defence of "our values," as it was "the only way in which we can honour the memory of these fallen brothers of Italy."

He added that an Italian state plane was leaving for Bangladesh, presumably to repatriate the bodies of the Italian dead.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said "the attack in Dhaka has pained us beyond words."

In Germany, authorities said there was no indication of any German casualties from the attack.

Most of the victims were "hacked to death by sharp weapons" inside the Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant in the Gulshan diplomatic district of Dhaka on Friday, the army's press wing ISPR said.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said earlier that troops were able to rescue 13 hostages alive and capture one of the terrorists.

Earlier reports said there were nearly two dozen hostages held by about eight to 10 attackers who stormed the cafe Friday night.

The militants were killed during a raid lasting 12 to 13 minutes, the military spokesman said. The forces found a number of weapons at the scene, including pistols, AK-22 rifles and knives.

Two of the 13 rescued alive were Sri Lankan nationals and one is Japanese, the army officer said, adding that more information would be available on the deceased after investigations.

The gunmen entered the restaurant at about 8:45 pm Friday [1445 GMT] as customers were eating. A tense standoff carried into early morning, after two police officers were killed in an initial exchange of gunfire.

The Islamic State terrorist organization reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence group. Other reports said US officials suspected al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent, which the US declared a terrorist group the day before.

Thousands of alleged radical militants had been arrested in Bangladesh in recent weeks, local media reported.

Last update: Sat, 02/07/2016 - 14:22
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