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1 Jul, 2016 17:21

Bangladesh hostage crisis: At least 2 killed as ISIS gunmen storm capital's diplomatic quarter

Islamic state has claimed responsibility for the attack on a restaurant in the diplomatic quarter of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Friday. At least two policemen have reportedly died, and dozens of people are being held hostage.

Four police officers have died, while the gunmen are holding approximately 40 hostages, including at least one Westerner, NBC News reported, citing Assistant Superintendent Fazle-e-Elahi. According to local media, two officers have been killed.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, Reuters said, citing the terrorist group’s propaganda website Amaq. The number of casualties, Amaq claims, stands at more than 20. However, the information hasn’t yet been officially confirmed.

Local police tried to establish communication with the terrorists, but after failing they started an operation to free hostages from the Dhaka restaurant.

Officers said that over 100 troops are fighting the gunmen, who are firing back, Reuters reported.

Local TV said that at least 10 people have been rescued from the cafe, including two foreigners.

Italian, Japanese and Indian nationals were reportedly among the hostages. Italy’s ambassador to Bangladesh, Mario Palma, confirmed the reports, saying that seven Italians were inside the cafe. Meanwhile, a Japanese government spokesman spoke about 12 people being rescued, but did not specify if any of the Japanese nationals were among the freed.

All TV networks across Bangladesh have stopped live coverage at the request of police, local media websites report.

Media outlets have been requested not to publish the names or nationalities of probable hostages for their safety.

We heard the shooting noise and blasting bombs… It is quiet now,” a witness who lives a kilometer from the restaurant told RT.

I’m particularly worried about what is going to happen in the next hours…” the man said, adding that he doesn’t know what actions local authorities are taking and he is concerned that if police try to catch the attackers, it may lead to more bloodshed.

The attack was carried out by a group of at least nine people, according to local media. They entered the restaurant at around 9:20pm local time and reportedly opened fire and set off explosions.

One of the attackers was armed with a sword, the others carried guns, an employee of a nearby café told RT. He estimated the number of hostages as at least 30.

A kitchen worker who managed to escape the building said the attackers chanted “Allahu Akbar.”

“They blasted several crude bombs, causing wide-scale panic among everyone. I managed to flee during this confusion,” he said, according to The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi English-language newspaper. The paper puts the number of injuries at 30.

The targeted area for the operation is Gulshan, a neighborhood in the capital city of Dhaka that hosts many nongovernmental organizations and embassies, including that of the US.

“This is a very serious diplomatic area, there are many embassies, including the delegation of the European Union, the French embassy, the Dutch embassy and the Russian embassy,” Syed Ishtiak Reza, the director of Ekattor TV, a leading satellite television channel in Bangladesh, said in an interview with RT.

The same-style attack took place in November 2015 when Al-Qaeda militants attacked the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, leaving 22 civilians dead. Five terrorists were killed as a result of a 10-hour siege.