A night long siege ended on Saturday morning when Bangladeshi troops gunned down six armed attackers who held a bakery hostage in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone, in what was probably the biggest assault in the capital city.
Thirteen hostages, including three foreigners, were rescued during the operation, a senior security official said.
“The operation is over. The situation is completely under control,” army spokesman Colonel Rashidul Hasan told AFP.
Tuhin Mohammad Masud, a commander of the elite Rapid Action Battalion which stormed the cafe, said there had been a number of casualties, including the hostage-takers and two police men, but the main area had been “cleared”.
“Troops are combing buildings near the restaurant as it is believed that three to four attackers were holed up in the area,” Masud told Hindustan Times.
Several people were detained in the restaurant and checks were being conducted to ascertain if any of them were involved in the attack.
The Islamic state claimed responsibility for the violence through its Amaq news agency through which it posted photos of dead foreigners allegedly killed in the assault.
The Holy Artisan Bakery Cafe in Dhaka’s Gulshan area, which is popular with locals, diplomats and expatriates alike, was targeted on Friday night at around 9 pm local time. Though it is yet unclear how many attackers were there, it is believed they were around 10 people.
Armed with assault rifles, the group open fired and set off explosive devices during the assault and took an unspecified number of people hostage.
Among the rescued hostages were two Sri Lankans and a Japanese national. “The Japanese national was injured,” Masud said.
An Indian national was freed or managed to escape the restaurant before troops launched their final operation, sources told Hindustan Times. However, further details about him were not immediately available.
The Indian government said it was closely monitoring the crisis even as officials maintained that all Indian High Commission staffers in Dhaka were reportedly safe.
Gowher Rizvi, an adviser to Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, told Reuters that security forces had tried to negotiate a way out of the crisis, but to no avail. Hours after the siege ended, Hasina said her country will not tolerate terrorism.
The siege is the latest in a spate of attacks in Bangladesh over the past 18 months, during which militant violence has spiked despite the country’s tradition of secularism and religious tolerance. Though most have been directed on individuals, often using machetes, the raid on the restaurant was a rare instance of a more coordinated operation.
Earlier on Friday, a Hindu priest was hacked to death at a temple in Jhinaidah district, 300 kms southwest of Dhaka. Both Islamic State and al Qaeda claimed responsibility for many of the killings, although local authorities say no operational links exist between Bangladeshi militants and international jihadi networks.
(With inputs from agencies)