Updated at 5:00 p.m. ET on 2016-07-01
Armed men shouting “Allahu Akbar” stormed a restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone late Friday, taking dozens of hostages, including at least 20 foreigners, and killing two policemen, officials said. At least 25 people were injured in the attack.
As of early Saturday morning (local time), about 50 people were still being held inside the Holey Artisan Bakery, a restaurant on Road No. 79 in the Gulshan 2 neighborhood, local station Jamuna TV reported.
According to Reuters, the Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack, and its Amaq news agency said in a tweet that more than 20 people had been killed, but that report could not immediately be verified.
“They will kill us if police open fire on them,” Hasnat Karim told his uncle by phone from inside the bakery at around 10:41 p.m. Hasnat, who was with his wife and two children, could not be reached again after 11 p.m., Bangladesh newspaper Prothom Alo reported.
Earlier, a police officer in riot gear told reporters to stay back as attackers fired shots whenever law enforcement agents approached the restaurant.
The two slain policemen were identified as Salahuddin Ahmed Khan, an officer-in-charge of the Banani police station, and Robiul Islam, an assistant commissioner, said Sheikh Nazrul Alam, deputy commissioner of the detective branch. He said at least 25 people had been injured.
Sumon Reza, a restaurant supervisor, said that as many as eight attackers entered the restaurant around 8:45 p.m. He said they opened fire to create panic and then took the guests hostage.
About 20 foreign guests were in the restaurant, said Reza, adding that the restaurant had foreign staff, too.
“They entered the restaurant and started shooting and attacking the guests. They were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [‘God is great’] while executing the attacks. One of the attackers had a machete in his hand,” he said.
“They have taken the guests hostage. I called their phones but they did not receive the calls. I do not know what has happened to them,” Reza said about two hours after the attack began.
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) Director General Benazir Ahmed called on Bangladeshi media to end live broadcasts from the scene.
“After evening, some distracted youths attacked a small Spanish restaurant where foreigners frequently come,” Ahmed said.
“We want to resolve the hostage crisis in peaceful manner. We want to talk to the attackers, too. Every life is important for us,” he said. “I want to tell you that many of the attackers have been watching TV. Please stop the live telecast.”
In a tweet, the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka asked people to shelter in place and monitor the news amid ‘reports of shooting and hostage situation in Gulshan 2, Dhaka.”
In Washington. U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told a Friday afternoon (local time) press briefing that all American staff at the embassy had been accounted for.
In New Delhi, India’s Ministry of External Affairs issued a similar statement.
“All Indian High Commission officials are safe. We are closely monitoring the situation,” the ministry said.
Shahriar Sharif in Dhaka and Rohit Wadhwaney in Gopalpur, India contributed to this report.