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Saturday, July 2, 2016, 15:55

26 killed in Bangladesh restaurant siege

By Agencies

26 killed in Bangladesh restaurant siege
People help an unidentified injured person after a group of gunmen attacked a restaurant popular with foreigners in a diplomatic zone of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 1, 2016. (AP Photo)

DHAKA - The attack on a restaurant in the Bangladeshi capital left 26 people dead including six armed attackers, the Bangladesh army said on Saturday, most killed with sharp weapons.

Army Brigadier General Naim Asraf Chowdhury told a news conference 13 people were rescued including one Japanese and two Sri Lankans.

Bangladeshi forces stormed the upscale Dhaka restaurant where heavily armed militants held dozens of people hostage Saturday morning, killing at least six of the attackers and rescuing 13 captives including foreigners at the end of the 10-hour standoff.

About 35 people were taken hostage, including about 20 foreigners, when gunmen stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka's Gulshan area, a diplomatic zone, on Friday night.

"We have gunned down at least six terrorists and the main building is cleared but the operation is still going on," Lt. Col. Tuhin Mohammad Masud, commander of the Rapid Action Battalion, told The Associated Press three hours after the commandos launched the rescue operation.

A Japanese government spokesman said that a Japanese hostage was rescued with a gunshot wound but seven others are unaccounted for. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda said that the eight were together at the restaurant during the attack.

Masud said that two Sri Lankans also were rescued.

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.

She vowed to fight terrorist attacks in the country and urged people to come forward.

26 killed in Bangladesh restaurant siege
An unidentified security personnel is taken for medical attention after a group of gunmen attacked a restaurant popular with foreigners in a diplomatic zone of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 1, 2016. A (AP Photo)

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadis activity online. A news agency affiliated with the Islamic Group claimed that 24 people had been killed and 40 wounded, including foreigners, according to SITE. The figures could not be independently confirmed.

The Amaq news agency also posted photos purportedly showing the bodies of hostages. The authenticity of the pictures could not be confirmed either.

With the sound of gunfire and explosions, local TV stations reported that the rescue operation began at 7:40 am It included army personnel with automatic weapons and at least seven armored vehicles and ambulances.

Local media reported that an Argentine and two Bangladeshis also were rescued from the restaurant early Saturday, but details about their condition were not immediately available.

Commandos storming the restaurant discovered five bodies lying in blood, a police official who was not identified told Channel 24 TV station. It wasn't clear if they were militants or hostages.

The attack marks an escalation in the growing drumbeat of militant violence to hit the traditionally moderate Muslim-majority nation in the past three years, but with increasing frequency in recent months. Most attacks have been by machete-wielding men singling out individual activists, foreigners and religious minorities.

Bangladesh did not immediately respond to the claim of responsibility by IS, but in the past have denied that the extremist group has a presence in the country. The U.S. State Department said it had seen the IS claim, but could not confirm its authenticity.

26 killed in Bangladesh restaurant siege
Bangladeshi soldiers come out of an area housing a restaurant popular with foreigners after heavily armed militants attacked it on the night of July 1 and took dozens of hostages, in a diplomatic zone of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 2, 2016. (AP Photo)
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