2 Officers Dead, Dozens Wounded in Ongoing Bangladeshi Hostage Situation: Reports
Two officers are were killed and dozens were wounded or taken hostage after ISIS gunmen attacked a cafe in Bangladesh Friday night, according to multiple reports.
Two officers were killed in a gun battle, according to CNN; and 30 people were wounded, officials told the Times and the BBC – mostly from shrapnel, according to the Times. The attackers also set off explosives, according to the Times.
The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka confirmed reports of the violence, writing on Twitter, “Reports of shooting and hostage situation in Gulshan 2, Dhaka. Please shelter in place and monitor news.”
It was not immediately clear the number of attackers or the number of hostages, and there were conflicting reports about the exact number of casualties. ISIS took responsibility for the attack hours after it began, according to the Times.
The U.S. State Department has not confirmed any American deaths or injuries in the attack, spokesman John Kirby said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
“Our embassy in Dhaka has confirmed 100 [percent] accountability of all official American personnel with no injuries reported,” Kirby said. “We are working with the local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens and locally-employed staff were affected.”
Kirby said, “We join with the people of Bangladesh in expressing our outrage at this brutal act of terrorism and offer our condolences to the friends and families of the victims, including Bangladeshi law enforcement officials who have been killed or injured responding to the attack.”
“If you are a US citizen near Gulshan area of #Dhaka, contact loved ones directly or use social media to alert them of your status,” the State Department tweeted.
Local authorities, who have reportedly engaged in force with the gunmen, are working to negotiate the hostages’ release, according to the BBC.
“We want to resolve this peacefully. We are trying to talk to the attackers,” said Benazir Ahmed, chief of the Rapid Action Battalion, Bangladesh’s elite police force, according to the BBC. “Our first priority is to save the lives of the people trapped inside.”
A man who identified himself as a restaurant worker who had escaped the violence told reporters on the scene that the attack began about 8:45 p.m. local time., according to the Times.
He said the attackers were armed with bombs, pistols and swords and that they detonated “several crude bombs.”
U.S. President Barack Obama has been briefed of the unfolding situation, according to a White House official, who says Obama “asked to be kept informed as the situation develops.”
After an hours-long ceasefire, shots rang out once again at the cafe, as multiple outlets reported that police had stormed the site, according to CNN.
This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.
• With reporting by SANDRA SOBIERAJ WESTFALL