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IS claims murder of 20 hostages in attack on Bangladesh cafe

Bangladesh's prime minister condemns 'heinous act' after commandos end 11-hour Dhaka siege in which 20 foreigners were murdered
Bangladesh forces killed six attackers and captured a seventh as they stormed the cafe (AFP)

Hostage-takers murdered 20 foreigners in a cafe in Bangladesh, using "sharp weapons" on many, before commandos stormed the building and killed six of the attackers to end an 11-hour siege.

Survivors told of how the attackers separated foreigners from locals before killing them late on Friday at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed the attack through its media arm, Amaq, while Bangladesh's prime minister Sheikh Hasina described it as "an extremely heinous act. What kind of Muslims are these people?" 

Thirteen hostages were rescued and one of the attackers was captured alive after the siege was broken early on Saturday.

Nine Italians, seven Japanese and one Indian were among the dead. Two police officers were killed at the start of the siege.

Nayeem Nayeem Ashfaq Chowdhury, an army spokesman, said most of the victims had been killed with "sharp weapons".

Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, prepared this country for "a painful loss" as local media said 11 had been taken hostage, and only one escaped.

India confirmed one of its citizens, a 19-year-old female student at the University of California, Berkeley, was among the dead.

Witnesses recounted how a huge gunfight erupted on Saturday morning as more than 100 commandos launched the rescue operation.

"It was a horrendous night," said Diego Rossini, an Argentine chef who managed to escape through a terrace during the siege.

"They had automatic weapons and bombs. I felt bullets pass so close to me, I felt fear like I've never felt in my life."

Rezaul Karim, the father of one of the survivors was told by his son how the attackers separated the locals from foreigners.

"They were taken to the upper floor and the Bangladeshis were kept around a table," he told AFP.

The attack follows a series of killings targeting religious minorities and foreigners.

Earlier Friday, a Hindu temple worker was hacked to death in western Bangladesh and a Hindu priest was stabbed early Saturday in the southwest.

The government and police blame homegrown militants for the killings, saying they are part of a plot to destabilise the country.

Bangladesh's main Islamist party has been banned from contesting polls and most of its leaders have been arrested or executed after recent trials over their role in the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.