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Sunday, July 3, 2016, 16:10

Bangladesh says gunmen were locals, some known

By Agencies

Bangladesh says gunmen were locals, some known
This May 5, 2015, photo provided by Naim Chowdhury and posted on his Instagram account, shows the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka's diplomatic zone. (Naim Chowdhury via AP)

DHAKA - The seven militants who killed 20 people at a restaurant in Dhaka were local Bangladeshis and authorities had tried before to arrest five of them, police said, as the country began a two-day period of mourning on Sunday.

The gunmen stormed the upmarket restaurant in the diplomatic zone late on Friday, before killing non-Muslim hostages, including at least nine Italians, seven Japanese and an American.

Islamic State claimed responsibility, warning citizens of "crusader countries" their citizens would not be safe "as long as their aircraft are killing Muslims", the group said in a statement. It also posted pictures of four fighters grinning in front of a black flag who it said were involved in the attack, according to the SITE monitoring website. The claims have not been confirmed.

Deputy inspector general of police, Shahidur Rahman, told Reuters on Sunday authorities were investigating any connection between the attackers and trans-national groups such as Islamic State (IS) or al Qaeda but did not elaborate.

He said that the militants were mostly educated and from rich families, but declined to give any more details.

National police chief Shahidul Hoque said all the gunmen were Bangladeshi.

"Five of them were listed as militants and law enforcers made several drives to arrest them," Hoque told reporters in Dhaka late on Saturday.

Bangladesh has blamed two home-grown groups for a series of grisly killings targeting liberals or members of minority groups over the past 18 months, and local authorities have maintained that no operational links exist between Bangladeshi militants and international jihadi networks.

Bangladesh says gunmen were locals, some known
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to journalists at his official residence in Tokyo on July 3, 2016. ( TORU YAMANAKA / JIJI PRESS / AFP)

Italian media said several of the Italians victims worked in the garment industry, and the attack will frighten expatriates working in the $26 billion garment sector that accounts for 80 percent of its exports.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced two days of national mourning on Saturday and said the country would stand up and fight the "terror threat".

The UN Security Council on Saturday "strongly condemned the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack perpetrated in the city of Dhaka."

"The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security," the council said in a statement issued to the press.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has labeled the terrorist attack as an "inhumane atrocity."

"I feel profound anger that so many innocent people have lost their lives in this savage act of heinous terrorism," Abe told a press briefing on Saturday evening, adding that the siege had culminated in an "inhumane atrocity" that had sparked deep indignation and strong condemnation from the international community.

The seven Japanese killed were working on projects involving the Japan International Cooperation Agency, an overseas aid agency, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Saturday.

Six of them were in Dhaka to work on a metrorail project, Bangladesh's communication minister, Obaidul Quader, said.

Italian media said several of the Italians victims worked in Bangladesh's US$26 billion garment sector, which accounts for 80 percent of its exports.

Bangladesh says gunmen were locals, some known
Indian social activists light candles during a protest in Kolkata on July 2, 2016, against a fatal attack on a restaurant in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. ( Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP)

Bangladesh says gunmen were locals, some known
Bangladeshi police and military gather in an intersection near an upscale restaurant after a bloody siege ended in Dhaka on July 2, 2016 . (STR/AFP)
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