All of the dead were foreign, army says, most "brutally hacked to death" at popular restaurant in upscale neighbourhood
Twenty foreign hostages have been killed at a cafe in the Bangladeshi capital, the army has said, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group that ended after a 10-hour siege when commandos stormed the building.
"Most [of] them had been brutally hacked to death with sharp weapons," army spokesman Brigadier General Nayeem Ashfaq Chowdhury said on Saturday.
Military officials said all of those killed were foreign, and that the dead included Japanese and Italian nationals.
Italy's foreign minister said on Saturday that nine Italians were confirmed dead, with another Italian still unaccounted for.
He "could be hiding himself or could be among wounded people... we are looking for him," Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian foreign minister, said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina earlier said 13 hostages had been rescued. Hasina said six gunmen had also been killed and one captured in the early morning operation at the Holey Artisan cafe in Dhaka.
The rescued included two Sri Lankans and a Japanese citizen who was wounded, Lieutenant Colonel Tuhin Mohammad Masud said, adding there were casualties among the other hostages. Japan confirmed that one of its citizens had been rescued and said seven were still unaccounted for.
Bangladesh declarede two days of national mourning following the attack.
"We have gunned down at least six terrorists and the main building is cleared," Masud told the Associated Press news agency.
Al Jazeera's Tanvir Chowdhury, reporting from Dhaka, said the cafe was located in one of the most heavily-policed parts of the capital, home to several embassies and popular with foreigners.
"In order to get in here you have to pass through a lot of police checkpoints. It's a highly cordoned-off area," Chowdhury said.
"So there's going to be a serious question raised: How did they manage to get in there with arms and ammunition, possibly even bombs and hand grenades?"
The crisis began at about 9pm local time, police said, when a group of gunmen burst into the cafe, which is popular with foreigners, young people, and middle class Bangladeshis.
During the siege, ISIL posted photos of what it said were dead foreigners in the cafe, where police believed the gunmen were holed up armed with assault rifles and grenades.
|Violence has spiked in Bangladesh in the last 18 months [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Handout via Reuters]|