Dhaka, Jul 2: Bangladesh's worst hostage crisis ended today when heavily-armed commandos stormed a popular eatery here in the diplomatic enclave and killed ISIS militants who had been holding many people, including foreigners, captive for over 12 hours.
Gunshots and sounds of explosion rocked the area at 7:40 AM (local time) as security forces launched an offensive to end the siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka's Gulshan diplomatic zone.
Tuhin Mohammad Masud, a commander of the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) which stormed the cafe, said there had been a number of casualties, including six hostage-takers. "We have gunned down six of the terrorists," Masud told reporters.
A total of 18 people were rescued from the restaurant, a senior police official said. Among the rescued are Indian, Sri Lankan and Japanese nationals.
Some of them are injured, said Mohammad Jashim, a deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police. An RAB official said at least five bodies were recovered during the raid, but did not confirm whether they were of hostages or gunmen.
The hostage crisis followed a Friday night gun-battle with police that left at least two senior officers dead and 40 people injured. Fire-fighters rushed to the scene after the raid this morning with extinguishers, probably to put out flames from explosions.
A medical team also rushed to the scene with stretchers. According to unconfirmed reports, at least one foreigner has been shot during the raid inside the cafe. Army men in armoured personnel carriers (APCs) had moved in with commandos.
Over 1,000 rounds of gunshots were fired and almost 100 blasts were heard in the first half an hour of the raid, media reports said. Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency, nearly four hours after the hostage crisis unfolded, according to the US-based SITE Intelligence group, which monitors jihadist activity online.
It later issued a number of photographs of what it said were scenes from inside the restaurant. The pictures showed what appeared to be a number of bodies lying in pools of blood.