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At least 20 foreigners killed in Dhaka attack, army confirms

ATTACK

DHAKA, BANGLADESH: Twenty foreigners were killed by their captors after being taken hostage at a cafe in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka and most of the victims were either Italian or Japanese, an army officer said on Saturday.

“All 20 of the hostages who were killed were foreigners,” Lieutenant Shahab Uddin told reporters. “Most of them were Italian or Japanese,” he added without giving an exact breakdown of the toll.

Officials had earlier said that six gunmen were killed when security forces stormed the cafe on Saturday morning while two police officers were slain in a firefight that erupted at the beginning of the siege on Friday night.

Bangladesh security forces ended a siege on Saturday after storming a cafe in Dhaka where dozens of diners had been held captive through the night and shot dead six of the hostage-takers.

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Two police officers were also killed at the start of the siege as they battled the hostage-takers who were heavily armed with explosives.

The Islamic State organisation claimed responsibility for the attack which follows a series of gruesome killings of religious minorities, foreigners and liberal activists in the mainly Muslim nation.

“The operation is over. The situation is completely under control,” army spokesman Colonel Rashidul Hasan told reporters.

Tuhin Mohammad Masud, a commander of the elite Rapid Action Battalion which led the storming operation, said the cafe itself had been cleared but added that some of the hostage-takers might still be at large.

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“We have gunned down six of the terrorists” Masud said and added, “The main area that they have been occupying has been cleared…Maybe some of them have escaped into a larger area.”

There was no official word on the number of hostages who had been killed or wounded but Masud said that “obviously there have been casualties”.

An eyewitness said he could hear a massive gunfight as security forces launched the rescue operation more than 10 hours after militants seized the hostages on Friday night.

Sri Lanka’s government said two of its nationals were among the hostages rescued and were safe and unharmed.

People carry an injured man near the Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant during an attack by unidentified gunmen in Dhaka's high-security diplomatic district on July 2, 2016. Gunmen stormed a crowded restaurant popular with foreigners in the Bangladeshi capital on July 1 night, apparently taking diners hostage and sparking a firefight with police in which at least two officers were killed, police and witnesses said. / AFP PHOTO / STR

Police said the gunmen burst into the restaurant shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greater) as people were having dinner at around 9:20 pm and set off explosives.

Italy’s ambassador Mario Palma told Italian state television seven Italians were among the hostages. Japan said some of its nationals may also have been among the captives.

Some diners managed to escape including an Argentine chef and a Bangladeshi man who took refuge in an adjacent building.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina condemned the attack and said security officials arrested one of the militants.

“Because of the effort of the joint force, the terrorists could not flee,” Hasina said in a nationally televised speech, vowing to fight militant attacks in the country and urged people to come forward.

All Pakistanis, diplomats are safe

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The Foreign Office has confirmed that all Pakistanis, diplomats and their families in Dhaka are safe.

“We are in contact with Pakistani diplomatic staff and they are all safe,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said quoted as saying by local television channels on Friday.

Zakaria also added that Pakistani diplomatic staff has restricted their movement following the attack.

“We have confirmed that there is no Pakistan national among the hostages,” Zakaria added.

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