On the night of July 1, a group of armed militants stormed Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka diplomatic zone, holding hostages and trading gun fire with security officials on the outside. What is perhaps one of the worst attacks in the Bangladeshi capital, the situation lasted through the night and resulted in 28 deaths, including 20 hostages, two security officers and six militants.
Armed with sharp weapons, Islamist militants laid siege to an upscale café in Dhaka, butchering 20 people, including a young Indian woman. After a night long operation, government forces stormed the building and rescued the remaining hostages, ending the 11-hour standoff. Six militants were killed in the gunfight.
Islamic terrorist group stake claim
The Islamic State (IS) said it was responsible for the attack, but the claim has yet to be confirmed as Dhaka has in the past denied the presence of the group on its soil.
Hours before the government announced the fatalities, the IS’ news service Amaq said 20 hostages, mostly foreigners, had been killed. It also posted photos of bodies and blood smeared across floors that it said were of those killed at the popular Holey Artisan Bakery. Indian and western intelligence agencies told Hindustan Times that the attack was carried out by the IS’ Bangladeshi module.
The operation to neutralise the seven militants holding the café hostage was named Thunderbolt. It began at 7:40am on July 2 and ended within 12 minutes.
It was jointly carried out by the Bangladesh’s army, navy, air force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Rapid Action Battalion and police. Bangladesh’s army announced the end of the operation at 8:30am.
Operation Thunderbolt successfully managed to neutralise six of the militants and capture the seventh alive. He was detained and later arrested.
In the combing drive after the offence, security forces recovered pistols, AK 22 rifles, explosives, live improvised explosive devices (IEDs), sharp weapons and walkie-talkies. The IEDs and other explosives were diffused by the joint forces.
In an attempt to blind the militants, cable TV connections, live messaging services and internet access throughout Dhaka were cut off. News channels were also asked to not broadcast live visuals. Effectively, the militants had limited knowledge about what the joint security forces were doing or planning.
Of the 20 hostages killed, seven were Japanese, nine were Italian, two were Bangladeshi, one was an American citizen and one was Indian. Most of the Japanese and Italian nationals killed were in the Dhaka on official business, working in a construction project or part of the textile industry. One of the Bangladeshis was a student at an American university along with the American citizen.
Nineteen-year-old Tarishi Jain was among those killed during the attack. The young Indian woman was at the café with two friends, who also died. All three of them were studying in the US and were visiting Dhaka during their vacations. Jain’s family hail from Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh but have been in Dhaka for more than a decade now. Jain’s father runs a garment business.
“I am extremely pained to share that the terrorists have killed Tarishi, an Indian girl who was taken hostage in the terror attack in Dhaka,” external affairs minister, Susham Swaraj had posted on Twitter.
During the initial moments of the attack, a few people managed to escape. At the end of the siege, 13 hostages were rescued, including three foreign nationals— one Japanese and two Sri Lankans.
The attackers who stormed a restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter spared hostages who could recite verses from the holy Islamic book, the Quran, but tortured and savagely hacked and butchered those who couldn’t, according to the rescued hostages.
“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,” said Rezaul Karim whose son Hasnat was among the hostages.
Hasnat Karim and his wife Sharmin had gone with their eight-year-old son Rayan and 13-year-old daughter Safa to the café in the posh Gulshan area on Friday night to celebrate Safa’s birthday. The celebration was violently interrupted when the attackers barged in.
No demands made
Bangladesh’s home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the militants had not made any demands during the government’s attempt to negotiate with them. He further dismissed any links between the attackers and the Islamic State, and reiterated the government’s stand that they were home-grown radicals.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina blames opponents
Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday announced a two-day national mourning for the victims of the country’s worst ever hostage crisis .
In a live television broadcast, she said the country stood “committed and determined” to uphold its freedom and blamed her political opponents of trying to create chaos by backing domestic militants.
“Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such an act,” Hasina said Saturday. “They do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism.”