Saturday, July 2, 2016 3:18 pm
Japanese and Italians, were among the victims of the slaughter by Bangladesh Islamists inside an upmarket restaurant in Dhaka, the capital, before security forces stormed the building and ended a 12-hour standoff on Saturday.
Islamic State said it was responsible for one of the most brazen attacks in the South Asian nation’s history, but that claim has yet to be confirmed.
It marks a major escalation in a campaign by militants over the past 18 months that had targeted mostly individuals advocating a secular or liberal lifestyle in majority-Muslim Bangladesh.
The gunmen, who stormed the busy restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic area late on Friday night, ordered all Bangladeshis to stand up before they began killing foreigners, a source briefed on the police investigation said.
Among the dead was the wife of an Italian businessman killed by a machete. She was found by her husband after he spent all night hiding behind a tree outside the cafe while the gunmen were inside, Agnese Barolo, a friend who lives in Dhaka and spoke to him, told Reuters.
Seven Italians were in the cafe when the attack started, including several working in the garment industry, Italian media have reported, while seven Japanese citizens were unaccounted for.
The killing of foreigners will likely shatter the confidence of the expatriate community in Bangladesh, many of whom work for multinationals in the country’s $26 billion garment sector that accounts for around 15 percent of the economy. Bangladesh is the world’s second largest apparel exporter after China.
Thirteen hostages were rescued, including one Japanese and two Sri Lankans, the army said.
Army spokesman Colonel Rashidul Hasan said he could not yet confirm the nationalities of those who had died. Most of them had been killed by “sharp weapons”.
Hasan said initially that it seemed all the victims were foreigners but now the army believed some locals were among the dead as well.
Six gunmen were killed during the police operation and one was captured, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in a TV broadcast after the army concluded its operation to clear the cafe. Two police were killed in the initial assault.
Islamic State, which has claimed a series of machete attacks on minority groups in Bangladesh over the past year, posted photos of bodies and blood smeared across floors that it said were dead foreigners killed in the assault.
Police did not immediately confirm whether the pictures were from the site of the massacre.
Gowher Rizvi, an adviser to Hasina, told Reuters security forces had tried to negotiate with the gunmen.