The attackers who stormed a restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter spared hostages who could recite verses from the Quran but tortured and savagely hacked and butchered others, according to rescued hostages.
Hasnat Karim and his wife Sharmin had gone with their eight-year-old son Rayan and 13-year-old daughter Safa to Holey Artisan Bakery in the posh Gulshan area on Friday night to celebrate Safa’s birthday. The celebration was rudely interrupted when the attackers barged into the restaurant and took dozens, including foreigners, hostage.
Hostages who could recite from the Quran were spared and even offered food, Rezaul Karim, the father of Hasnat Karim, was quoted as saying by The Daily Star newspaper.
“The gunmen were doing a background check on religion by asking everyone to recite from the Quran. Those who could recite a verse or two were spared. The others were tortured,” Rezaul said.
“They (gunmen) did not behave rough with the Bangladesh nationals,” he quoted his son as saying. “Rather they provided night meals for all Bangladeshis.”
According to Rezaul, the gunmen were “done with the foreign nationals dining in the eatery by 11.00pm” on Friday.
After being held inside the restaurant for more than 10 hours, the Karim family was rescued during an operation by the police, army, Border Guard Bangladesh, and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on Saturday morning.
Hostage sends text messages
Soumir Baroi, who works at the restaurant, texted his younger brother Gopal Baroi while hiding in a bathroom at Holey Artisan Bakery. Gopal tried to call his brother over phone at 9.30 pm Bangladesh time but got no response, The Daily Star reported.
At 10 pm, Soumir texted: “Me and nephew are fine. Locked in the bathroom.” This was followed by another text at 1.44 am: “What is the situation outside?”
Gopal responded: “RAB is overlooking everything. They are doing all they can do, so that you all are not harmed.”
A minute later, Soumir texted to his brother to take steps to free him. “Chhoto Mamun knows where our toilet is. We are there. If you can, please break the wall and take us.”
During another exchange of texts at 2.15am, Gopal wrote: “Do they (attackers) know you are in the toilet?”
Gopal: “Are they saying anything to you?”
Soumir: “They don’t want anything. They have locked us.”
Gopal: “Dada please sit on a side of the toilet. They may fire.”
Soumir: “Yes we are.”
Around 5am, Gopal again asked his brother if he was safe and told him: “We all pray for you so that you come back safe and sound.” Soumir replied he was safe and added: “May be RAB will enter now. Please come to the toilet soon. It is painful here.”
Gopal responded that he had informed a security official about their plight. Soon after, Gopal sent another text to his brother but got no response.
Gopal was quoted by The Daily Star as saying that he had been unable to contact his brother after the security forces stormed the restaurant at 7.40 am on Saturday.
The restaurant’s manager, Sumon Reza, who managed to escape, said the attack started with an explosion. He said the attackers shouted “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great”.
Reza said there were eight attackers, heavily armed with knives, firearms and explosives. He escaped by going up to the restaurant’s roof and jumping over to the next building.