Gunmen take hostages in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka

Gunmen have stormed a popular cafe in the diplomatic area of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, taking a number of hostages, officials say.

Several foreigners are among those being held by eight or nine men in the city's Gulshan district, they add.

A gun battle between the attackers and police wounded three people, including two officers.

Police and security forces have sealed off the area and are trying to negotiate the hostages's release.

"Some derailed youths have entered the restaurant and launched the attack," Benazir Ahmed, chief of Bangladesh's elite police force, said. 

"We want to resolve this peacefully. We are trying to talk to the attackers... Our first priority is to save the lives of the people trapped inside."

Local media reported that the gunmen entered the Holey Artisan Bakery cafe and opened fire.

The cafe is described as being popular with expatriates, diplomats and middle-class families.

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It is not clear who the attackers are, although a police officer told the BBC that Islamists were suspected.

Media reports quoted witnesses as saying that "Allahu Akbar", meaning "God is greatest", was heard as the attack took place.

An eyewitness said she heard a loud noise, followed by continuous gunfire.

"I saw the glass of my drawing room shattered," Rashila Rahim said. 

"My auntie, her daughter and two friends went there for Iftar (breaking of the Ramadan fasting) and they have not come back. We cannot even check where they are."

BBC South Asia editor Jill McGivering says that although high-profile gun attacks are rare in Bangladesh, the latest incident follows a series of murders widely blamed on Islamist extremists.



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