Hostages Taken In Attack on Restaurant In Bangladesh Capital

A group of up to nine attackers set off bombs and took hostages while shouting “Allahu Akbar” inside a restaurant frequented by both locals and foreigners in a diplomatic zone in Bangladesh’s capital, local media reported.

Bangladesh TV stations reported that the attackers entered the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s Gulshan area around 9:20 p.m. Friday and were holding customers and staff hostage.

The exact number of hostages was not known. While some reports said there could be up to 60, others put the figure lower.

The TV reports said the identities of the attackers were not immediately known.

The U.S. State Department said all Americans working at the U.S. mission in the area had been accounted for, according to Reuters.

“We have accounted for all Americans working for the chiefof mission authority” in Dhaka, John Kirby, a State Department spokesman said. He called the situation “fluid.”

The reports say a huge contingent of security guards cordoned off the area and the restaurant as they traded gunfire with the attackers who set off explosions.

Jamuna Television reported, quoting a kitchen staff worker at the restaurant who escaped the attack, said that the gunmen chanted “Allahu Akbar” as they launched the attack.

Sumon Reza, the worker, told The Daily Star that several armed men entered the restaurant and took hostages.

“They blasted several crude bombs, causing wide-scale panic among everyone.”

Benazir Ahmed, director general of the elite anti-crime force Rapid Action Battalion or RAB, told reporters that security forces were working to save the lives of the people trapped inside. Several foreigners are believed to be among the hostages.

“Some derailed youths have entered the restaurant and launched the attack. We have talked to some of the people who fled the restaurant after the attack. We want to resolve this peacefully. We are trying to talk to the attackers, we want to listen to them about what they want,” Ahmed said.

“Some of our people have been injured. Our first priority is to save the lives of the people trapped inside.,” he said. He would not confirm the number of those trapped inside.

Earlier this month, authorities in the country rounded up about 1,600 criminal suspects, including a few dozen believed to be Islamist radicals, in a nationwide crackdown aimed at halting a wave of brutal attacks on minorities and activists.

Only 37 of them were suspected to be radical Islamist militants, according to authorities. Those include three charged with alleged membership in the banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh

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