Scores of hostages held in a Dhaka café frequented by foreigners
Police say that “derailed youths” shouting “Allah is great” shot their way into a coffee shop in the capital’s diplomatic district. This comes after a wave of violent attacks and murders against Bangladesh’s non-Muslims. Police call for CCTV cameras in every place of worship.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Gunmen have stormed a popular cafe in the diplomatic district of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, taking a number of hostages, including several foreigners. Some eyewitnesses believe the gunmen to be Islamist extremists.
Shouting “Allah is great”, the group of eight or nine armed men seized the Holey Artisan Bakery café, which is said to be popular with diplomats, in the Gulshan district. Many embassies are in fact located in the area.
“Some derailed youths have entered the restaurant and launched the attack,” said Benazir Ahmed, chief of the Rapid Action Battalion, Bangladesh's elite police force.
“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,” he added. "Our first priority is to save the lives of the people trapped inside."
Today is the last Friday of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of purification. A campaign seems to be underway against the country’s small non-Muslim population.
“Since the beginning of the year, almost 20 people have been killed,” a Catholic source, anonymous for security reasons, recently told AsiaNews. “No one is targeted in particular; however, extremists seem to want to destabilise the country.”
In recent months, ordinary people as well as Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and the wife of Chittagong police chief, have become the victims of violence.
What worries the source the most “is the lack of logical pattern in these attacks, which is forcing everyone to take extra care."
Despite the government’s recent round up of suspected terrorists, with more than 5,000 people arrested, "tensions remains high. The only certain information from the authorities is that we will have to contend with violence for a long time."
"A few days ago,” said another source, “the police chief summoned the leaders of minority groups, including Protestant pastors, Hindu priests and Catholic clergymen and advised them to be cautious, to install CCTV cameras at the entrances of buildings and homes."