The deaths in the militant attack on a restaurant in Bangladesh were at once random, and not so random.
The 20 hostages who died in the siege had reasons to be in the developing South Asian nation. They were construction consultants from Japan, working on a Japanese government-funded infrastructure project. They were Italian businesspeople in textiles, a major industry in a country that is a center for low-cost production. They were two students from an American university who had ties to Bangladesh.
Their lives intersected on a Friday night at the western-style restaurant at Holey Artisan Bakery, a popular hangout for the relatively well-heeled in the Gulshan diplomatic enclave in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. By Saturday morning, after security forces stormed the restaurant to end a 10-hour siege, they were dead. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had targeted citizens of what it called ‘Crusader countries’. Their stories paint a portrait of innocent lives lost in the world’s latest militant attack.
Dhaka, a city of 7 million, has some serious traffic congestion, so it’s no surprise that transport is a key area of Japanese government aid in Bangladesh.
The work brought together eight technical experts, from three Tokyo-based consulting firms, who were eating together when the attack began at 9:20 pm. Two women and five men died. Only one made it out alive.
Tomaoki Watanabe, who was hospitalised after being shot, was one of four employees from ALMEC Corp., a transportation consultancy with offices in Manila, Hanoi, Jakarta and Ulan Bator, according to its website. The other three – Yuko Sakai, Rui Shimodaira and Makoto Okamura – died.
Okamura’s father, Komakichi Okamura, told Japanese media outside his home on Sunday that his 32-year-old son’s death “is unbearable as a parent”. He recalled their last words: “He said, ‘I am leaving now’… and I said to him to be careful. That was the last conversation I had with him on the telephone.”
Another victim, Koyo Ogasawara, worked for Katahira & Engineers International, a transportation consultancy that has worked on projects in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The other three were working for Oriental Consultants Global, which is part of a Japanese project to build three bridges for the widening of the national highway from Dhaka to Chittagong. Two of them have been identified as Nobuhiro Kurosaki and Hiroshi Tanaka.
“We feel very indignant toward the perpetrators, because these people were working hard for the development of Bangladesh,” said Shinichi Kitaoka, the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. He pledged to strengthen security precautions while continuing to contribute to the country’s development.
The attack reached halfway around the world to the southeastern US state of Georgia, where Emory University said two of its students were among the victims.
One, Faraaz Hossain, came from Dhaka, and the other, Abinta Kabir, was from Miami, Florida, and was visiting family and friends in Bangladesh.
“We are honestly shocked,” said fellow student Kereisha Harrell, 20. “A lot of us are not ready to talk about it. But we were a family. It hit us hard. There are a lot of people very upset. We’re just trying to support each other through this.”
Kabir was entering Emory’s Oxford College as a sophomore, and Hossain was a graduate of Oxford College and a student at the university’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta.
Both were active on the Student Activities Committee executive board, and Harrell said they were also part of an honor society that required a GPA of 3.9 or higher.
“The Emory community mourns this tragic and senseless loss of two members of our university family,” the university said in a statement.
As the second largest garment exporter in the world, Bangladesh has a $26 billion garment industry. And the fashion capitals in Europe are among its big clients. Of the nine Italians who died, five were in the country on business with the textile industry.
Claudia Maria D’Antona worked in clothing and textiles business and was at the restaurant having dinner with her husband, Gianni Boschetti. A phone call saved Boschetti’s life who stepped out into the garden to speak on the phone when the attack began. His sister-in-law, Patrizia D’Antona, said that he “wandered all night” from hospital to hospital in hopes of finding his wife.
The others included Simona Monti, who according to her brother, was five months pregnant. Monto worked for a textile firm, while Maria Rivoli, a mother of a three-year-old, was travelling through the country for business as well.
Cristian Rossi was a business manager for Feletto Umberto, and earlier worked as a buyer for an Italian textile company, as well as his own import business involving clothing made in a Dhaka factory.
Marco Tondat had been in the country for about a year, working in the textiles industry.
The others who were caught in the massacre were Nadia Benedetti, Claudio Cappelli, Vincenzo D’Allestro and Adele Puglisi.
A young Indian woman, Tarishi Jain , was also among those brutally slaughtered in the cafe. Tarishi’s family hails from India while she was studying at the University of California, Berkeley. The 19-year-old had come to Dhaka to visit her who father runs a garment business in the city.
(With AP inputs)