3 killed in Dhaka diplomatic zone attack, foreigners among hostages

DHAKA: As many as nine gunmen attacked a restaurant popular with foreigners in a diplomatic zone of the Bangladeshi capital on Friday night, taking dozens of hostages and exchanging gunfire with security forces, authorities and a witness said.

Two police officials are reported dead in the attacks. Bangladeshi media are putting the number of dead at three, including an Argentine national.

At least 35 people, including about 20 foreigners, were still trapped inside the restaurant, according to kitchen staffer, Sumon Reza, who was among more than 10 people who managed to run to the rooftop and escape.

He said the attackers chanted ``Allahu Akbar'' (God is Great) as they launched the attack around 9:20 p.m. Friday, initially opening fire with blanks.

A huge contingent of security forces cordoned off the area around the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka's Gulshan area. Several other wounded police officers were hospitalized after security forces exchanged fire with the attackers inside the restaurant who also hurled bombs. A local resident Lutful Amin told the AP he heard several explosions, the last of which went off around 10:45 p.m.

The head of the elite anti-crime force, Rapid Action Battalion, told reporters Friday night that they were working to save the lives of the people trapped inside the restaurant. Authorities The hostages included an unknown number of foreigners.

``Some derailed youths have entered the restaurant and launched the attack,'' Benazir Ahmed said. ``We have talked to some of the people who fled the restaurant after the attack. We want to resolve this peacefully. We are trying to talk to the attackers, we want to listen to them about what they want.''

``Some of our people have been injured. Our first priority is to save the lives of the people trapped inside,'' Ahmed said. He would not say how many people were trapped inside.

A Bangladeshi official said efforts to open negotiations with the hostage takers have been unsuccessful. 

Indian foreign ministry has, meanwhile, said that all Indian officials are safe and the Indian high commissioner is closely monitoring the situation.

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters: ``We are aware of reports of what appears to a hostage situation in the Gulshan neighborhood of Dhaka.''
Kirby said that all American citizens that are under the authority of the diplomatic chief of mission in Dhaka were accounted for and were not involved in the incident, but the department is still checking on private American citizens who may have been in the area

He said it was too early to say who was involved in the assault and their motivation.


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