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Dhaka attack: Gunmen hold 20 hostages at a cafe. ISIS claims responsibility

Catch Team | Updated on: 2 July 2016, 3:19 IST

A group of six to nine gunmen are holding at least 20 hostages at a popular restaurant in Dhaka's Gulshan diplomatic area. The attackers engaged in a gun battle with the police, in which at least 2 police officers were killed and around 40 people were injured.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Amaq News Agency, the media branch of the ISIS.

According to local media reports, it was around 9:20 pm that gunmen attacked the Holey Artisan Bakery - a restaurant popular with expatriates, diplomats and wealthy locals.

Sumon Reza, the owner of the restaurant told CNN that he managed to escape as six to eight gunmen entered the cafe. He says that at least 20 people, most of them foreigners, are being held hostage in the restaurant

According to Maruf Hasan of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, a police officer belonging to a nearby police station was shot dead. Another officer died later from gunshot wounds, police deputy commissioner Sheikh Najmul Alam told CNN. Alam further said that 40 people were wounded, some by gunshots and others by shrapnel from explosive devices.

The gunmen haven't made any demands as yet. The police and the Rapid Action Battalion are trying to negotiate with the gunmen.

"We are trying to negotiate with the gunmen holed up inside the restaurant," Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) chief Benazir Ahmed told reporters. "Our first priority is to save the lives of the people trapped inside."

The officer in-charge of nearby Banani police station, Salahuddin Ahmed, was among the two policemen killed in the gunbattle. The other officer killed in the attack was Additional Commissioner of Police Rabiul.

The attackers hurled bombs from inside the restaurant and were firing intermittently. When the police tried to get inside the building the gunmen triggered a blast to stop them. Several gunshots and explosions were heard near the restaurant.

The Dhaka Police requested news channels to stop live reportage, which the latter readily complied.

Eyewitness accounts

Witness Sharma Hussain told CNN that her cousin has four friends who are in the restaurant. Hussain says the hostages' relatives have come to the scene but have received no word from their family members. Hussain said she heard the gunshots from her apartment, about a five-minute walk from the restaurant.

Lori Ann Walsh Imdad, an American teacher living in Dhaka, said she lives one block from the restaurant and she heard gunshots. At first there was a burst of gunfire; after that it was sporadic. There has not been any gunfire since, she said.

Farzana Azim, who lives nearby, says she heard explosions outside her home. "We heard the first bomb blast at 8:30 in the evening," Azim said. At first she thought it was the sound of a plane, but a few minutes later another blast echoed through the neighborhood of Gulshan. Within a half hour, the gunshots started, she told CNN. .

"I never thought something like this could happen. It is next to a small hospital. This is family-friendly restaurant. Everyone loves to go there," she added.

Hussain said the restaurant was popular among young people, who would have packed the restaurant about the time of attack as they broke their fast for the day.

Target Bangladesh

Muslim-majority Bangladesh has been fighting a wave of deadly attacks on religious minorities and secular bloggers by suspected Islamist militants.

Earlier today, a Hindu priest and a Buddhist leader were brutally hacked to death by machete-wielding Islamic State militants while another Hindu man survived a bid on his life.

On June 7, a 65-year-old Hindu priest was killed by three bike-borne assailants in western Bangladesh.

The ISIS and al-Qaeda in Indian Sub-Continent have claimed responsibility for most of the attacks even though the government has denied their presence in the country.

Last month, police launched a nationwide anti-militancy crackdown to halt these attacks.

First published: 2 July 2016, 3:19 IST