The reign of terror is an international problem, that needs to cease immediately. WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Police are preparing to storm a restaurant in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka where Islamist gunmen connected with ISIS are holding around 20 hostages after they shot two officers dead in a shoot-out.
As many as nine gunmen entered the Holey Artisan restaurant and opened fire, unleashing at least 50 shots and hurling makeshift bombs.
The attackers are holding around 20 people hostage at gunpoint, including foreigners, inside the Spanish restaurant in the upmarket Gulshan area.
Police are preparing heavily-armoured vehicles in an attempt to storm the premises, which is also near to a hospital, and rescue those held inside.
One local police station chief, Mohammed Salahuddin, who was earlier injured in the shoot-out, has been declared dead according to a top official at Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
A second policeman, Robiul Islam, assistant commissioner of Uttara zone Detective Branch, has also died in the shooting, top police officials confirmed.
Another 25 officers and one civilian are being treated for injuries from gunshots and shrapnel, with 10 people in a critical condition, according to hospital authorities.
One member of staff from the restaurant who managed to escape, Sumon Reza, told Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star: ‘They blasted several crude bombs, causing wide-scale panic among everyone.
‘I managed to flee during this confusion.’
He added: ‘They came armed with pistols, swords and bombs. They shouted Allahu Akbar [God is great] before blasting the bombs.’
Early reports indicate that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to SITE Intelligence Group.
It claimed ISIS’ Amaq News Agency reported fighters from the Islamic State group had carried out the attack.
Mr Reza claimed an Argentinian and an Italian are among those being held hostage.
Italian television said a total of seven Italians were among the hostages, quoting the Italian ambassador to Bangladesh Mario Palma.
Two hostages, an Argentinian and a Bangladeshi citizen, have been claimed to be rescued by law enforcers after they managed to escape to a neighbouring building.
Another witness, who lives near to the restaurant, said he could hear gunfire and it ‘looked quite bad’.
The US Embassy in Dhaka said on its Twitter feed there were ‘reports of shooting and hostage situation’.
It warned people in the area to ‘please shelter in place and monitor news’.
The US State Department said that it was too early to say who was involved or what the motivation might be, but it confirmed that all Americans working at the US mission there had been accounted for.