— Gunmen detonated explosives and took a number of people hostage on Friday night at a restaurant in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, setting off a bloody standoff with the police in the city’s diplomatic district.
Hours into the standoff, in which two police officers were killed, the Islamic State issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.
“Islamic State commandos attack a restaurant frequented by foreigners in the city of Dhaka in Bangladesh
,” Amaq, a news agency linked to the Islamic State, reported.
Witnesses took to Twitter to report hearing gunfire, and posted images of armed paramilitary officers surrounding the restaurant, the Holey Artisan Bakery, which is said to be popular with expatriates, diplomats and middle-class families. It is in the city’s Gulshan
Two police officers were killed in the standoff, and 30 wounded, mostly from shrapnel, officials said. Television stations broadcast video of bloodied officers being carried on stretchers from the scene, until officials asked the networks to stop.
Eight to 10 armed men entered the restaurant, where 20 foreigners were dining, around 8:45 p.m., according to Sumon Reza, a kitchen worker at the restaurant who escaped and spoke to reporters. The attackers shouted “God is great” before opening fire and detonating several explosives, Mr. Reza said. Mr. Reza said the attackers were armed with pistols, swords and bombs.
Several foreigners worked at the restaurant, including an Italian
who escaped and an Argentine
, whose whereabouts is unknown, local news media reported.
Mr. Reza said he and another employee were able to escape by jumping from the building’s second floor.
“They blasted several crude bombs, causing wide-scale panic among everyone,” Mr. Reza told a Bangladeshi newspaper, The Daily Star. “I managed to flee during this confusion.”
The total number of hostages, including restaurant employees, was not known. Neither was the identities of the attackers.
“We are requesting the ones who are inside the restaurant to talk to us, relay us your demands,” said Benazir Ahmed, the director general of the Rapid Action Battalion, the country’s counterterrorism force, according to The Dhaka Tribune.
The State Department alerted American citizens in the area to the reports of the attack, and advised them to “shelter in place and monitor news.”
“The situation’s ongoing, obviously — too early for us to say who’s involved, motivation, any of that stuff,” said John Kirby, the State Department spokesman. “It’s all still unfolding right now.”
Mr. Kirby said all Americans working for the United States
mission in Dhaka were safe and accounted for, but officials were still trying to locate Bangladeshi employees.
In Bangladesh in recent years, there have been dozens of killings of atheist writers, foreigners, bloggers, religious minorities, gay rights activists and others — mostly in machete attacks, but also in shootings and bombings.
The police in Bangladesh say the killings have been organized by two militant Islamic groups that recruit young men from religious schools and train them to carry out attacks.
The attack at the restaurant comes two weeks after the Bangladeshi government finished conducting a weeklong crackdown that included mass arrests, taking into custody more than 10,000 people, including 194 people reported to be affiliated with militant networks.