Bangladesh’s home minister said Sunday that the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, was not behind Saturday’s Dhaka cafe attacks, which left 20 hostages dead.
Gunmen stormed the upscale Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter Friday evening killing dozens of people, most of whom were killed with sharp weapons. Bangladeshi troops stormed the cafe ending the nearly 12-hour siege rescuing 13 hostages and killing six of the militants and arresting one. Two police officers also died in the standoff.
“They are members of the Jamaeytul Mujahdeen Bangladesh,” Bangladesh's Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan reportedly said. “They have no connections with the Islamic State [group].” Khan added that the Bangladeshi group had been banned for more than a decade.
ISIS had earlier claimed responsibility for the attack, announcing it on one of its media outlets Amaq. Amaq reportedly even published photos Saturday of five men each holding what appear to be assault rifles and posing in front of a black ISIS flag. Amaq said the men were the militants behind the attack.
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced two days of national holiday mourning following Saturday’s tragedy. She also called for unity against such criminal activity.
Brig. Gen. Nayeem Ashfaque Chowdhury told the Guardian, “The terrorists killed the civilians last night. We have recovered huge cache of IED explosives and AK-22 assault rifles.”
A witness told the Associated Press that the hostages were asked to recite verses from the Quran and if they couldn’t they were tortured and killed. The gunmen were initially firing blanks and ordered restaurant workers to switch off the lights as they draped black cloths over security cameras, another survivor said. Some people managed to escape with the kitchen staff by running to the rooftop or out the back door, he said.
The officer in charge of Bangladeshi commandos, Lt. Col. Tuhin Mohammad Masud, said the rescued hostages included an injured Japanese citizen and two Sri Lankans. Nine Italians, seven Japanese, one U.S. citizen and an Indian were among the dead and one Italian is still unaccounted for. The deceased were moved to the Combined Military Hospital in the capital city of Dhaka for postmortem examinations.