UPDATE: 8:33 a.m. EDT — An Agence France-Presse report said that Rome’s Ambassador to Bangladesh Mario Palma spoke to Italian state television and confirmed that seven Italians were among those taken hostage by the militants during Saturday’s Bangladesh cafe siege. Two of the hostages who were rescued were Sri Lankan.
UPDATE: 6:15 a.m. EDT — India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj announced Saturday that one Indian girl was among those killed in the deadly Bangladesh cafe siege. The victim was a 19-year-old who had graduated from the American School Dhaka and was a student at Berkeley.
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that Italians were among the victims of the attack but would not reveal details on how many until families of the victims were notified, the Associated Press reported.
UPDATE: 4:54 a.m. EDT — At least 20 hostages were killed after militants stormed an upscale restaurant in Bangladesh. All the deceased were foreigners, military officials reportedly said Saturday. The victims were all civilians and were killed with sharp weapons.
The number of casualties and the number rescued vary but officials said that the figures were preliminary. The victims were found after the 10-hour standoff between militants and the troops.
“We were able to save 13 people, we weren't able to save a few ... and of these terrorists, six died on the spot,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said at a news conference.
UPDATE: 2:56 a.m. EDT — Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina condemned Saturday the Dhaka restaurant attack and vowed to fight what she describes terrorist attacks that have rattled the country, the Associated Press reported. Hasina added that security officials have arrested one militant.
“Because of the effort of the joint force, the terrorists could not flee,” she said. “Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such act. They do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism.”
Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda reportedly said that there were eight Japanese at the restaurant during the attack. Seven Japanese hostages are unaccounted for. The eight people were from different companies but involved in the same project led by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The commanding officer of Bangladeshi commandos said Saturday that the main building of an upscale restaurant in Dhaka that was under attack by militants had been cleared. As of 10:35 a.m., local time, (12:30 a.m. EDT), at least six militants were killed and 13 hostages rescued. He added that a few militants had been captured alive.
The rescued reportedly include a Japanese, who was injured, and two Sri Lankans. Lt. Col. Tuhin Mohammad Masud added that there were no other casualties among the hostages. "We have gunned down at least six terrorists and the main building is cleared but the operation is still going on," he added.
Bangladesh’s armed forces stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery in the country’s capital Saturday morning in an effort to end the 10-hour standoff between the troops and militants who were holding at least 35 people, including 20 foreigners, hostage since Friday evening.
A source told CNN that at least six to nine gunmen opened fire Friday evening and took customers hostage. The cafe is situated in what reports describe a diplomatic area of the city, and is popular with expats and the youth. Reports said that at least eight hostages were rescued earlier. People living in the Gulshan neighborhood where the cafe is located reportedly said they heard gunshots, after hundreds of soldiers approached the cafe.
The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack according to a report from one of its news agencies Amaq. It said that more than 20 people “of different nationalities” had been killed but this has not been confirmed by officials.
The U.S. State Department is reportedly aware of the ISIS claim but could not confirm its authenticity. Spokesman John Kirby said the State Department is assessing the information. The U.S. is in contact with the Bangladesh government and has offered any assistance to bring those responsible to justice.
Kirby said that all official American personnel had been accounted for with no injuries reported. The department is working with local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens and locally employed staff were affected.
The gunmen had not made any demands, a Bangladeshi official reportedly said. Seven Italian nationals are believed to be in the cafe, the Italian ambassador in Dhaka Mario Palma told Italian media. Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo was investigating reports that some of its citizens were among the hostages.
According to reports, witnesses heard the gunmen saying “Allahu Akbar” meaning “God is greatest” when they entered the cafe.
Police said two officers died at a hospital after they were wounded in the gunfire. The attackers also hurled bombs at the police. Ten of the 26 wounded were listed in critical condition. Six of them were on life support, according to hospital staff. The injuries reportedly ranged from broken bones to gunshot wounds. Only one civilian was among the wounded. Authorities ordered internet services to be blocked across the country, reports said.
The latest incident adds to the series of attacks that the Muslim-majority country has been witnessing. Close to two dozen atheist writers, publishers, members of religious minorities, social activists and foreign aid workers have been killed since 2013. Most recently, a Hindu temple worker was hacked to death by at least three assailants in southwest Bangladesh. ISIS and and al Qaeda affiliates have claimed responsibility for many of these attacks.