Islamist militants murdered 20 civilians, mostly foreigners, inside an upscale cafe in the Bangladeshi capital before security forces stormed the building and ended a 12-hour siege on Saturday (July 2).
Nine Italians were killed at the scene, in Dhaka’s diplomatic area. Another Italian was unaccounted for, Italy’s foreign minister said.
Japanese nationals were also among those held hostage, but their fate was not immediately known.
The assailants, who burst into the busy restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic area late on Friday night, wielding pistols, knives and grenades, ordered all Bangladeshis to stand up before they began killing foreigners, a source familiar with the police investigation told Reuters.
The siege ended on Saturday morning when dozens of security forces stormed the building. Thirteen hostages were rescued, including one Japanese and two Sri Lankans, according to the Bangladeshi army.
Six gunmen were killed and one was captured alive, the government said.
The attack was claimed by the group calling itself Islamic State. It marks a major escalation in a campaign by militants that had for the past year and a half mainly targeted individuals advocating a secular or liberal lifestyle in this mostly Muslim country.
Seven Japanese unaccounted for
A police officer at the scene said that when security forces tried to enter the building at the beginning of the siege, they met a hail of bullets and grenades.
Most of the victims inside the restaurant were attacked with sharp weapons, a military spokesman said.
The militant group calling itself Islamic State, which claimed the attack, has posted photos of what it said were dead foreigners, and said 24 people had died.
One Japanese hostage was among those rescued and taken to a Dhaka hospital with a gunshot wound, a Japanese government spokesman said.
But the fate of seven others were unaccounted for. They were outside consultants working for Japan’s development agency on an infrastructure project.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the attack as “cruel and atrocious terrorism”.