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WORLD RIGHT NOW WITH HALA GORANI
Bangladesh Hostage Crisis; Dhaka Police Trying To Communicate With Gunmen; Cafe Owner: Twenty People Held Hostage At Restaurant. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired July 1, 2016 - 15:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome, everyone. We are coming to you live from London. I'm Hala Gorani.
We begin with the very latest details from Bangladesh this hour. This is what we know. A hostage situation is still unfolding in the capital of
Dhaka where it's just after 1 in the morning. That is 8 p.m. here in London. These are the newest pictures that we have from the scene.
We understand gunmen stormed a busy restaurant in the diplomatic quarter a couple of hours ago, exchanging heavy fire with police. The attackers also
threw some kind of explosives. One policeman is now confirmed dead.
Now, the restaurant owner managed to escape. He's giving information to CNN, he said he escaped in all this confusion. He said there were six to
eight men, armed with guns, and some 20 people are being held hostage as we speak including foreigners. This area is popular with international
We still don't know who the attackers are, what their motivations are, if they're operating in the name of any group. Police say the gunmen have not
made any demands yet. They're trying to communicate with them, saying they want to try to resolve the situation as peacefully as possible.
CNN's Ivan Watson has been covering attacks in Bangladesh particularly against minorities over the last few months. He is in Istanbul right now
with what more do we know. Generally speaking, what kind of groups operate in Bangladesh that would want to orchestrate something along the lines of
what we are witnessing, Ivan?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a very important context to share as this very tense situation is unfolding, Hala.
We as a network and myself personally have been reporting extensively over the past year on the growing phenomenon of targeted killings that have been
taking place in Bangladesh.
In this case what we're talking about is attackers that have been specifically going after a series of atheist and secular writers, bloggers,
and publishers. They last year killed an Italian aid worker, a Japanese businessman.
They have been going after members of the some of the non-Sunni-Muslim religious minorities in the capital and other parts of the country as well.
In April, they killed two LGBT activists, one of whom worked for the U.S. embassy in what was just a terrifying home invasion.
Now, after that killing, that double murder, the U.S. ambassador spoke to CNN and basically tried to sound the alarm, saying that the embassy had
tracked, over a period of 14 months, some 35 similar attacks across the country, 25 of them had been claimed, she said, by terrorist organizations.
Now, the Bangladeshi government insisted that this was not the work of foreign extremist organizations, even though what we saw were competing
claims in many of these murders, either by groups affiliating themselves with ISIS or affiliating themselves with al Qaeda.
In June, the Bangladeshi government appeared to go on the offensive. They conducted massive sweeps, detaining 14,000 people, while directly accusing
the main opposition political party in the country of being behind the violence, accusations that, of course, that political party denied.
So that gives you a kind of setup of the trend of violence that's been taking place and the growing political polarization in the country. We
don't know who is behind this hostage-taking. If it is in fact Jihadi- inspired, it would show a dramatic shift in the tactics being used and a real challenge for the security forces who already have been suffering
The assistant deputy commissioner, who told us that one of his officers was killed by gunfire tonight around the hostage-taking, that officer also says
that he too was wounded by gunfire -- Hala.
GORANI: All right, Ivan Watson, thanks very much. Giving us important context for Bangladesh. A series of hacking attacks against secular
bloggers, members of the LGBT community, a very tense environment.
I want to go straight to Dhaka now where a cafe owner has told CNN 20 people are being held hostage. Fayad Muname (ph) witnessed some of the
[15:05:05]Fayad, thanks for being with us. First of all, how far are you from where this is all happening?
FAYAD MUNAME (ph), EYEWITNESS (via telephone): I'm two streets away but minutes' walk.
GORANI: What did you hear and see?
MUNAME: So I'm on the balcony down the block, 9:00 p.m. and there was three loud blasts that sounded like gunfire.
GORANI: So you heard loud blasts that sounded like gunfire from a weapon being fired, is that what you're saying?
MUNAME: Yes. It was definitely gunfire. It wasn't a bomb blast.
GORANI: Describe the area to us. We're talking about a bakery called the Holey Artisan Bakery. Can you describe the area for us?
MUNAME: Yes, this whole area is residential. It's actually considered highbrow. A lot of ex pats live here. It's a diplomatic area, a lot of
embassies. Holey Artisan is a bakery and around 6 p.m. onwards, it turns into a restaurant, a very high-end restaurant. It caters to a lot of
expats who go there.
GORANI: It's an international clientele, a diplomatic area, you have foreign workers, diplomats, highbrow kind of neighborhood is what you're
GORANI: Let me just get back to what you heard. You heard the three loud blasts that sounded like gunfire, is what you're saying. Did you hear
MUNAME: Actually we heard a little later, after we heard the three gunfire shots, we turned the TV on, and the TV channel had a reporter on point.
What happened there was one of the workers, it wasn't the owner, he was a waiter, basically, and he did an interview and said it was six to eight
assailants, they were unshaven entered the building and fired three times in the air. That man escaped.
GORANI: I was going to say, this confirms what we were hearing from the employee of the cafe, six to eight assailants, 20 people held hostage. But
let me get back to what you yourself heard. You heard what sounded like three gunshots. Did you hear or see anything else from your vantage point?
MUNAME: Yes. So while I was watching this interview live, there was almost like a (inaudible) that was really loud. It happened, we heard it
and then there was (inaudible) that happened at the same time. Then we saw an image of (inaudible) explosion.
GORANI: Did you see that yourself?
MUNAME: I saw it on TV myself. The explosion I heard. It was definitely not gunfire, it was something else.
GORANI: I see. So just to sum up, what you heard from where you are two blocks away, three blasts that sounded like three shots from a weapon and
then a very loud explosion. How many minutes after the gunshots did you hear the explosion?
MUNAME: I would say about a half hour.
GORANI: OK. And you're saying that was definitely not gunfire based on what you could tell?
MUNAME: It was not gunfire, no.
GORANI: Are you hearing any police activity right now, can you see anything from where you're standing, from where you're looking out your
MUNAME: Right now. It's gotten really quiet. Just standing around and not really doing anything. It was like (inaudible) of action, but I think
they removed all the TV reporters in the area. So literally all I can see is them standing around and doing nothing right now.
GORANI: Thank you, Fayad Muname, someone who lives close to this bakery that turns into a restaurant at 6:00 p.m. It's a very international part
of town in Dhaka. Fayad Muname says he heard what sounded like three gunshots and half an hour later heard on television and also from his
vantage point heard a very loud explosion.
So three gunshots and then a loud explosion. This is what we know right now. Twenty people held hostage at that restaurant.
[15:10:07]One of the employees who was able to escape says that says that six to eight gunmen stormed the establishment.
Charu Lata Hogg is an associate fellow in the Asia Program at Chatham House. She has extensive knowledge of security issues as well as domestic
politics in Bangladesh. Thanks for joining us.
Let me first ask you, what are your thoughts, you're hearing this news, it's very fresh, it's still very unclear what we're talking about, but what
goes through your mind when you hear the news from Dhaka tonight?
CHARU LATA HOGG, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: It's too early to pin any responsibility or attribute in terms of who is responsible, with the
group who are these people. But from my point of view, having covered Bangladesh quite closely for over a decade, I would say let's not lose
sight of the environment within which this has happened.
It is an environment of increasing religious intolerance, lack of government responses, lack of accountability for those who have committed
numerous crimes over the years, and also the context of where there is immense political bickering between the two political parties.
Now, the fact is that all western intelligence agencies in Bangladesh had information of extremist acts being planned over a year now. Did the
government respond to this? No, they did not. Instead blame was always shifted on the opposition political party, the BNP.
We also have an understanding of the security issues in the reason, that there is a contest for power between al Qaeda and IS and there have been
certain incidents of (inaudible) in Bangladesh, which point to greater religious intolerance and greater incidents of extremist violence. Yet the
security response from the government side has been extremely small.
GORANI: Let me ask you about this climate of intolerance because we reported a lot on some of these shocking attacks, secular bloggers, members
of the LGBT community, religious minorities. Essentially you have these attackers, they always follow very similar MOs. They drive up on scooters
or mopeds and hack people to death on the streets. It's incredibly shocking. What group is responsible for organizing these types of attacks
HOGG: Well, I think, again, the responsibility has been diffused, and there has been no proper investigations, prosecutions. The linkages of
these groups to those in power and those political parties has not been investigated fully.
We also know that in the past, the now opposition government had very close linkages with a certain political party of certain religious inclinations
and they were tenuous links between, say, the (inaudible) and other extremist groups that haven't been investigated fully.
It is within this context that we are seeing that such acts are being allowed to be committed with complete and utter impunity. Nobody has been
brought to justice.
And in fact, the whole issue has been diffused and treated as one viewed through the lens of homosexuality and an attack on LGBT while this is an
attack on freedom of expression and free speech. This is a result of (inaudible) in the rule of law.
GORANI: Charu Lata Hogg, thanks very much. It sounds like it wouldn't be difficult in such an environment to light another violent episode in Dhaka,
Bangladesh. Thanks so much for your expertise.
CNN intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer joins me now via Skype. He's in Colorado. So I was discussing there with our expert, Bob, the fact
that these bloggers, members of the LGBT community and others have been attacked violently and viciously in the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Now
we're seeing this, we don't know who is behind it. What is your thoughts?
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Hala, this is, let me put it this way, an ISIS-style attack. We have al Qaeda, ISIS there,
sympathizers. There's franchises there. There's no evidence that local groups are controlled by Raqqah.
But on the other hand, I put it in context, the Istanbul attack, the Orlando attack. But more than that, there was a big attack in Yemen a
couple of days ago, attacks in Lebanon, in Jordan, which the Islamic State -- it seems to me that the Islamic State has put out a call and people are
answering it, without direct control.
[15:15:09]And we'll have to wait a lot longer to find out if this is true.
GORANI: Yes, absolutely. But also, the target is not coincidental, obviously. We were told by this eyewitness, this is a well to do
neighborhood. It's a diplomatic area. Foreigners go to this particular restaurant called the Holey Artisan Bakery. Six to eight gunmen,
potentially. We're talking gunfire. We're talking 20 people being held hostage. I mean, this is a serious situation.
BAER: This is unprecedented in Bangladesh. I started my career in South Asia. We considered it a fairly secular state. It had the Muslim
Brotherhood. It was inactive. This is something entirely new for this country. They're not prepared for it.
And the fact that they've used explosives and maybe automatic weapons, have attacked the police, and strictly really a foreign target, where they
congregate, a soft target. It's got the hallmarks of al Qaeda or the Islamic State. Let's wait and see.
GORANI: Right. I just got back from Turkey, Ataturk Airport, all these civilian soft targets, it certainly sounds like something that's starting
to provide a clear picture, but we have no confirmations. And we'll continue to follow it. Bob Baer, thanks very much.
I do have an update to bring our viewers out of Bangladesh. Police are trying to communicate with as many as eight gunmen now, we understand,
holding hostages in that restaurant in Dhaka. The restaurant owner escaped the attack and says 20 people are being held, including foreigners.
Police say the gunmen haven't made any demands. The attackers burst into the restaurant a few hours ago, exchanging heavy fire with police. Now in
all of that, one officer is confirmed dead.
Now, we need to underline this, we don't know who the attackers are, what their motivations might be. But of course, the modus operandi, many of our
viewers will be saying to themselves, here is something that reminds us perhaps of similar operations.
The situation is unfolding in the diplomatic quarter of the capital. Gulshan is a popular upscale are with many shops and restaurants. You have
foreigners, diplomats, international visitors. This is a high scale, highbrow, in fact as our eyewitness described it earlier, part of Dhaka.
Let's go to CNN's Sumnima Udas. She's following developments. She joins me now from New Delhi. Sumnima, talk to me a little about what police are
hoping to achieve here?
SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Earlier, Hala, police has said that they would try to resolve this hostage situation as peacefully as possible.
We understand from the police that the gunmen have made no demands at the moment. So we understand that they are talking to the gunmen. We don't
have any more information other than that.
As the owner of the restaurant has been telling CNN, he believes there are about 20 people that are trapped, perhaps all of them have been held
hostage as well, and there are about six to eight gunmen in there at the moment.
We've seen video of Bangladeshi police at the scene with their gear on. A huge number. This is a very, very, as you've been talking, Hala, this is a
very affluent part of Bangladesh. There are a lot of embassies there.
In fact this happened quite close to the Qatari and Iranian Embassy. This is the same area where an Italian expat was killed, gunned down back in
September 2015. Since then there's been a lot of security in the area.
Of course, because there's so many embassies, there is security anyway. But since that attack, a huge presence of security. A lot of police
patrolling the area. So again, we don't know who is behind it.
All we know is there's a very tense situation at the moment. Very difficult to get in touch with the police officers there. But they are
trying to talk to the gunmen right now -- Hala.
GORANI: Just one question about, you know, just sort of what -- I mean, would people be safe going out on a Friday night in that part of Dhaka,
given the targeted killings of that Italian expat, of other minorities, whether it's religious minorities or members of the LGBT community? Would
people be comfortable going out on a Friday night in Dhaka?
UDAS: Well, because of the spate of killings in the past two years, a lot of expats have been talking about how scared they are to say that, quite a
few have moved out as well.
[15:20:03]We've been told by some locals have quite a few friends who live there. Bangladeshis say that, you know, these attacks happen, they are
worried. But it's life for them, so they continue to go out, especially in this area where there are a lot of restaurants and cafes.
We're talking about the last Friday of Ramadan. So a lot of people would have been there. So even though there's that fear of people in general in
this region in South Asia, they continue with their lives. They still go out on a Friday night.
This is certainly the first time in the past at least five years that we've seen this kind of attack in a major area where there's so many embassies.
We've been talking about all these attacks against bloggers, atheists, LGBT activists, expats, but nothing like this before -- Hala.
GORANI: Right. This potentially could be a game changer. Thanks very much, Sumnima Udas.
Let me bring in Lori Ann Walsh Imdad (ph). She is an eyewitness to tonight's violence. She is the principal at the American Standard
International School in Dhaka. Thank you, Lori Ann, for being with us. Tell us what you heard and/or saw a little bit earlier this evening.
LORI ANN WALSH IMDAD (ph), EYEWITNESS (via telephone): Well, around between 8 and 8:30, I got a report from one of my daughters' friends that
there was something going on at the restaurant. And subsequent to that I started hearing gunshots outside. I could see people running on the main
So it was a little bit nerve wracking. Ever since then I can see the police hanging out on the main road. There's a huge crowd, probably media
reporters still hanging out there so the situation continues.
GORANI: Lori Ann, how close were you to this restaurant, this cafe, the Holey Artisan Bakery, when you heard the gunshots?
IMDAD: We live about a block away.
GORANI: That's how close you actually were?
IMDAD: Yes. Yes.
GORANI: Wow. Now, the gunshots, could you describe how many, what it sounded like to you when you heard them?
IMDAD: At first there was a number of them together and then after that it was sporadic. I would say for at least the last hour I haven't really
GORANI: All right. So you first heard bursts of gunfire, then sporadic. You're saying in the last hour you have not heard anything?
IMDAD: No, not at all.
GORANI: Stay on the line, I want to update our viewers that we're getting word that a second police officer is now dead as a result of this attack on
this bakery. Did you hear at all an explosion or was it all gunfire, what you heard, Lori?
IMDAD: What I heard was gunfire.
GORANI: Are you still just about a block away right now? Are you still able to hear anything?
IMDAD: Yes, I'm on my balcony right now. I can see the reporters have moved away so there must be something going on closer to the restaurant.
There's only a few people still hanging out at this moment.
GORANI: I just want to make sure if you're on your balcony and you're a block away, are you sure it's safe to be out there?
IMDAD: Well, I've been very careful as far as taking a look at the balcony. I don't stand there for very long.
GORANI: OK, when you do look out, and just make sure you're not visible or too visible, what do you see?
IMDAD: No, I turned the lights off inside so that no one can really see that I'm out there.
GORANI: That's a good call. What do you see when you actually do pop out on your balcony?
IMDAD: Well, up until just now there was about a crowd of about 30 people standing at the end of my road and they looked mostly like media reporters.
And there is a white van that also looks like it's a media van. People have been walking back and forth. There's police on the road as well.
GORANI: You're still seeing a crowd of about 30 people at the end of your street. How close to the restaurant would that be?
IMDAD: That's -- I would say that's within 20 feet of the restaurant.
GORANI: And they're still there, clustered 20 feet away?
IMDAD: Yes. I mean, right now, no, but just before you called they were still standing there. I don't know if they've moved over closer to the
restaurant to get more information from the police that are closer, which is what I would assume is going on.
GORANI: One last question, what kind of police presence are you able to witness from where you are?
IMDAD: It's pretty heavy. I mean, I've seen at least three or four people standing on the sidewalk right adjacent to where the end of my road is.
Normally we don't have police except at residences of diplomats in this area.
[15:25:06]GORANI: Lori Ann Walsh Imdad (ph), thank you so much for joining us. Just a block away from where this is all happening. Thank you and do
Lori Ann heard a burst of gunfire when this incident started unfolding, then a lull, then sporadic gunfire. She hasn't heard anything in terms of
gunfire or explosions for the last hour. She was able to pop out briefly on her balcony to take a look at what's going on.
She says up until a few minutes ago, 30 people were clustered 20 feet away from the restaurant where the hostage situation is unfolding, but they're
not visible from her vantage point anymore.
Just to update our viewers as well on what we're learning, a second police officer has been killed. Let's bring in James Jeffrey, a former American
ambassador and deputy national security advisor. He joins me now from Washington.
Ambassador, first of all, as you listen to the coverage of what's going on in Dhaka, what are your thoughts? This is not the type of attack, we've
seen individual targeted killings in Dhaka, nothing like this.
JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Nothing like this, Hala, you're absolutely right. You've been in this region of the
greater Middle East and you know what's going on here. First, individuals attacks.
If the police and the authorities are not effective, it moves to these quasi-military operations by local subsidiaries of terrorist groups like al
Qaeda and ISIS. That's what we've got now.
Beyond that, there are attacks like 9/11 and the attack we just saw in Istanbul where a terrorist organization from its headquarters sends out
people to launch these very dramatic attacks. So Bangladesh is moving up the ladder towards another worse situation.
GORANI: And why Bangladesh, though? Because it's not in its history traditionally more secular. Why is Bangladesh now falling prey to some of
JEFFREY: Every country in the Middle East is susceptible to one or another degree to radicalization by radical Islamic movements, be it al Qaeda, be
it ISIS, be it some variance of the Muslim Brothers, and that can lead to violent outbursts like this.
What is important is whether the authorities recognize it and react to it. In Bangladesh, what we've had over the past two years is a state of denial,
not too different than what we're seeing in Egypt, the Sinai, and other areas, Pakistan and areas to the west of the capital.
And the result is these people dig in, they become ever more well-armed and have ever larger groups, and they become an ever greater global threat.
GORANI: This isn't necessarily directed from Syria or Iraq. I mean, it could be one of those attacks, I mean, in a way, not unlike what we've
seen even in the United States, inspired by this ideology that has spread either over the internet or, as you mentioned, through subsidiary groups in
that part of Asia. This could be what we're looking at.
JEFFREY: For almost certainly. Individuals such as San Bernardino and Orlando who are inspired by the internet and by just the news and have
access to weapons, the first level, the entry level, if you will. Then you get the local subsidiaries of a movement that have one or another as self-
You have these in West Africa wanting to be part of the bigger movement such as is, that start becoming more military, better organized. That sort
of thing we're seeing tonight in Bangladesh.
The third level is organized attacks launched by the headquarters of a movement, again, 9/11, Istanbul. And the fourth level is, as we've seen in
a few places, some sort of terrorist state with an army.
GORANI: But I mean, in a country like Bangladesh, you talked about denial. But these are just by definition extremely soft targets. They're
civilians, they're people out on a Friday night, minding their own business in a restaurant. How do you even start protecting these types of targets
from very determined attackers like this intent on creating chaos?
JEFFREY: This is a question that we face at embassies, the White House in Washington and the Istanbul airport, which was one of the best protected
airports in the world. That's why it got back into operation a day later.
But you always have a perimeter to any hard target and you can attack the perimeter, there are always people there. But more importantly, there are
restaurants, there are sports fields, there are shopping centers.
There are places where public congregate, all over every city in the world and they're all soft targets. None of them can really be protected.
GORANI: All right, former Ambassador James Jeffrey, thanks very much for joining us from Washington. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: All right, former Ambassador James Jeffrey, thanks very much for joining us from Washington. We're going to
take a quick break. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani, live at CNN London. Let's bring in the very latest details from Bangladesh at this hour, recapping
our breaking news, police are trying to resolve a hostage situation in the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka.
Gunmen stormed a busy restaurant in the diplomatic quarter a few hours ago exchanging heavy fire with police. The attackers also threw some kind of
explosives. We've just learned that two policemen are now confirmed dead in this operation.
The restaurant owner, one of the employees, managed to escape. He told CNN there were six to eight gunmen. He says some 20 people are held hostage
inside, including foreigners. We still don't know who the attackers are, what their motivations might be.
The MO is trying to sound a little familiar with other attacks. Police say the gunmen have not made any demands. They're trying to communicate with
them, saying, they would like to resolve the situation peacefully if they can.
Let's get the perspective of the former American ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty joins me from Florida. What are your thoughts? You know this
neighborhood very well, you know Bangladesh very well. You're hearing all of this terrible news coming from Dhaka. What are your thoughts this
JAMES MORIARTY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO BANGLADESH: Well, I think the key take-away is that the terrorists are trying to show that they can
attack anywhere at any time. We've seen the gradual increase in the number of people getting hatcheted to death, being shot to death. And now all of
a sudden, they're attacking at one of the busiest times of the year, in the safest, richest part of the entire country.
GORANI: Are you surprised that they were able to carry out this operation, six to eight gunmen, explosives, in what sounds like automatic or at least
semiautomatic weapons, in what would be considered, I assume, an obvious potential target?
MORIARTY: Well, I think if you look at Bangladesh, there are so many people, it's such a big country. And I think everybody who was watching
has expected the terrorists to up their game, to do something more sensational, something that gives the government a real black eye.
And it looks like that's what they've managed to pull off. You're right, though, I mean, this is a very well-guarded section of the city. And, you
know, as I said, it's discouraging that the terrorists can drive home a message like this.
[15:35:04]GORANI: What kind of groups, you know, would carry out attacks like this in Bangladesh? Where immediately would your suspicions lie?
MORIARTY: Well, there are home-grown terrorists in the sense that in the middle part of the last decade there was a serious problem with a group
called the JMB. You don't have huge support for fundamentalist Islam inside the country.
But you do have maybe 5 to 10 percent of the country believing in the more austere forms. And you multiply 145 million Muslims in the country by that
number and you come up with a lot of potential people.
The other thing people are commenting on is with the banning of the nation's largest Islamist party from participating in elections, you all of
a sudden have their group of young street thugs who are by and large fundamentalists looking for another cause, another flag to fight under.
GORANI: Right. So really there are many groups that could potentially be responsible here. And just to underline to our viewers, we don't have a
claim of responsibility. We certainly have not ID'd any of the attackers. We do know that 20 people are being held hostage.
And many people will be worried who know foreigners or international visitors in Dhaka, worried about their loved ones in that part of town.
How would you expect the Bangladeshi police operations to unfold, knowing the country as well as you do?
MORIARTY: Well, I worry that there's probably not going to be a good outcome. If we are all correct in assuming that this is a bunch of Islamic
extremists who have taken the step to send a political message, then they're not going to peacefully surrender. And I do worry that you'll have
more violence by the end of this.
GORANI: All right, thank you very much, former ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, for joining us from Florida. We appreciate your time.
CNN's Ivan Watson has covered those attacks we've been referring all hour on minorities in Bangladesh over the last few months. He's in Istanbul
right now, where we were in fact both covering another attack, at Ataturk Airport.
All right, so we're still just -- just to update our viewers, there's really no big new development. We do know that 20 people are still being
held hostage. Six to eight gunmen perhaps with grenades, certainly with heavy weaponry, holding these people.
And the worry that, as you heard the ambassador there say, that it might not end well, but the hope that it will -- Ivan.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another bit of information, we've spoken with a police commissioner in Dhaka who has
confirmed now that a second police officer has been killed by gunshot wounds. And we know of at least one police officer also wounded by gunshot
So that gives an indication of the lethal force the hostage-takers have been using, the fact that they're using firearms and have not hesitated to
use them against the security forces in this very tense standoff in the heart of the Bangladeshi capital.
We'll bring more, as we get more. We're working hard with our contacts on the ground in Bangladesh to bring the latest on this unfold and very tense
and now also deadly situation -- Hala.
GORANI: Absolutely. That second police officer killed. But here, the M.O. is very different from what you've reported on in the past, targeted
killings of either secular bloggers or expats, et cetera. This is a more complex military-style operation -- Ivan.
WATSON: Absolutely. In the past what we've seen is groups of men often arriving on a motorcycle, and they've been following their targets, their
victims, almost like prey, and it's a very disturbing story, a very disturbing phenomenon of violence that Bangladesh has been seeing grow over
the course of now some two years.
Where these people will go after their targets, who vary, either from members of the religious minorities to the atheist blogger community in the
country, which has been extremely hard hit, at least six atheist bloggers and secular writers and publishers murdered over a period of 14 months as
well as an Italian aid worker last year, a Japanese businessman as well.
The Bangladeshi government tried to respond in June to growing criticism coming from friends and relatives of these victims, also after two LGBT
activists were killed in a terrifying home invasion in Dhaka last April when one of those LGBT activists worked for the U.S. embassy.
[15:40:11]The Bangladeshi government carried out massive sweeps, detaining more than 14,000 people in June, and squarely putting the blame for the
murders on the main opposition party in the country. Those accusations of course denied by that political party.
But that gives you a sense of how the violence has been ramping up to such a degree that secular writers and publishers have gone quiet, disappearing
from social media.
I've talked to some of them, who have been hiding, not going out in public, trying to mix up their daily routines, or dozens of these bloggers who have
simply fled the country to neighboring countries, to India, all the way to Europe as well.
So that's part of the context of violence that the country has seen that has been ramping up over the course of the past year and a half. The
ambassador to Bangladesh last April told us, the U.S. ambassador, that the embassy had counted 35 such targeted killings over a period of 14 months,
25 of them claimed by terrorist groups.
And what's even more disturbing about this trend of violence, Hala, is that the various groups that are claiming responsibility are either affiliating
themselves with ISIS or al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. And they appear to have been in competition as they're carrying out these killings.
So frightening stuff on the ground. We don't know who is behind this unfolding and deadly situation at the hostage-taking. If it is in fact a
jihadist-inspired event, it would mark a dramatic shift in the tactics being used by extremists in this country -- Hala.
GORANI: Absolutely, a shift, an escalation, a very worrying situation. By the way, Barack Obama, the U.S. president, has been briefed on this
Bangladesh attack, and the embassy in Dhaka has tweeted out that they are aware these reports of shootings and a hostage situation in Gulshan and
they are asking U.S. citizens to please shelter in place, monitor the news, don't take unnecessary risks.
Let's bring in CNN's national security analyst, Peter Bergen. He is live in Washington. So Ivan was mentioning there this very dangerous rivalry
between ISIS affiliated groups, al Qaeda affiliated groups in Bangladesh, and that there could be sort of a one-upmanship between these extremist
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I was talking to a U.S. counterterrorism official. I think they're leaning towards this being
ISIS. You know, they don't know for a fact yet. But al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, which is the group that Ivan was talking about,
typically has not done these kinds of large scale operations where you have, you know, multiple gunmen, hostage situation.
You know, this seems to be taken from the sort of ISIS playbook. This is a so-called Fedayeen attack. Fedayeen attacks were used, you remember, Hala,
were used in Mumbai, where you have gunmen going into a target willing to go to their deaths, unfortunately, killing a lot of people and taking
hostages along the way.
In this part of South Asia, these kinds of tactics have been used before and I think that's what we're seeing unfolding.
GORANI: All right. And so of course, police are saying they want to negotiate, they want to talk with them. We know two police officers lost
their lives in the middle of this operation. And so far we're not hearing reports of any killings. Hopefully it will stay that way. But there has
to be worry out there that this is very dangerous, Peter.
BERGEN: Yes, I mean, when these have happened in the past, whether it's in Mumbai, or whether it's in Orlando and the United States, where somebody
was inspired by is, or when it happened, you know, in Paris, unfortunately, the way these things played out, they're designed to do exactly what we're
doing now, which is to talk about them for quite some period of time on television.
Because of course the oxygen of terrorism is publicity, as Maggie Thatcher famously said. Of course, these are big news events so we can't not cover
them. But they're intended to last. They're not just one event where a bomb goes off and then that's it. These attacks are designed to carry on.
[15:45:03]We saw the Mumbai attack went on for three days. And unfortunately, it is quite likely that the people who have gone into this
attack are willing to die, understand that this may be a lengthy standoff. I can't recall a time when we've seen this kind of attack where it ended
peaceably, where the kidnappers sort of gave up. Typically these things end in a lot of tragedy.
GORANI: Well, let's hope this is the exception that confirms the rule. By the way, peter, you mentioned coverage. I just want to let you and our
viewers know, we're not showing any live images. We're not going to show any live pictures that might endanger anybody involved. These are all
taped images filmed from far away as well.
Just a quick, last question. Why Bangladesh in particular? It has a history of being quite a secular, very large, very populated, pretty
BERGEN: Indeed. And the scourge of jihadi terrorism was really kind of absent but has taken off in the last couple of years when we've seen
multiple attacks on secular bloggers and self-proclaimed atheists and members of the LGBT community and well-known novelists.
Over the last few years, there are a lot of jihadi groups present there, some affiliated with al Qaeda, other more independent ones. It's one of
the world's largest Muslim countries.
As somebody on your air earlier was saying, ISIS has mentioned Bangladesh in some of their recent publications. Clearly it's a target of opportunity
for these groups.
GORANI: Stand by, Peter, I want to update our viewers with the latest on this developing story in Dhaka. As I was mentioning, Peter, police say
they are trying to communicate with as many as eight gunmen holding hostages in a restaurant in Dhaka.
The restaurant owner escaped the attack. He was in another part of the building. He says 20 people are being held including non-Bangladeshis and
foreigners in this big diplomatic area rather upscale neighborhood.
Police say the gunmen have not made any demands. Now the attackers burst into the restaurant a few hours ago. They exchanged heavy gunfire with
police, they threw some kind of explosives. Two officers are confirmed dead, sadly.
We still don't know who the attackers are, what their motivations might be. Suspicion is starting to drift in a certain direction, but we do not have
confirmation right now or certainly no claim of responsibility that we can report to you.
The situation, as I mentioned, is unfolding in this diplomatic quarter of the capital. If you're familiar with Dhaka, it's called Gulshan. It's a
popular upscale area. It's got shops and restaurants and embassies as well.
This is a restaurant that is a bakery during the day and then turns into kind of a hangout spot in the evening. It's a restaurant that starts
serving food around 6:00 p.m. We were told by one of the eyewitnesses who spoke to us on the phone.
And so this is an area where if you wanted to attack a soft target, you wanted to, you know, increase your chances of hitting foreigners and
international visitors, this is where you would hit.
Joining me now on the phone is Ali Riaz, a professor at Illinois State University. He was born and raised in Dhaka and recently returned from a
visit there. Tell us a little bit more about, first of all, what your main take-away from tonight's news is as you watch the coverage.
ALI RIAZ, PROFESSOR AT ILLINOIS STATE UNIVERSITY (via telephone): First of all, it is deeply disturbing and worrying (inaudible), what we were
witnessing in the last months, the individual attacks perpetrated against individuals who might have been bloggers and the targets have widened.
But this seems to be a very coordinated attack and it looks like that it is -- we don't know, but it seems to me it has all the hallmarks of
international terrorist groups. This is a serious escalation, a hostage- taking situation. It's unprecedented in the context of Bangladesh.
So this seems to be a very bad development. And particularly the area, as you have described, it is a very upscale neighborhood. More importantly,
it is a place where foreigners frequent these kinds of restaurants and cafes.
GORANI: Peter Bergen, if you could stand by, Professor Riaz, Peter Bergen, you're saying that the expectation is that eventually it will be found that
an ISIS-inspired group will -- you know, could be responsible for this because of the M.O., is that what you're saying?
BERGEN: Yes. The modus operandi is unlike anything that we've seen in Bangladesh previously. Al Qaeda is affiliated in South Asia, has mounted
these kinds of operations.
[15:50:07]Obviously ISIS has done this repeatedly. We're in the holy month of Ramadan. ISIS has repeatedly called for these kinds of attacks in
Ramadan. We've seen this in Orlando. We saw this in Paris. We saw this unfold in Istanbul. Unfortunately, this is probably part of a string of
attacks that have been directed or inspired by ISIS.
GORANI: And Peter, stay tuned. Ali Riaz, you were of course born and raised in Dhaka, it's your country of origin. You were there recently.
What's changed in recent years? First these terrible targeted killings against minorities, and now this. What is the context surrounding these
RIAZ: Surrounding these attacks, particularly if you look at the past years, the political situation has deteriorated. Democratic space has been
restricted. That is one problem we've seen in the politics. Nevertheless, in addition to that, what is happening is the spread of these militant
The militant groups have been in Bangladesh since 1990s. But they didn't find any (inaudible) here. Over the years it seems to be a deteriorating
law and order situation. And of course, it needs to be mentioned, this culture of denial.
The government keeps denying there has been any international terrorist groups. We have seen that extremism has grown over the years. And all
these are coming together, which is certainly the presence of the militant groups and of course, international terrorist groups are increasing their
presence, and that seems to be the case in Bangladesh now.
GORANI: OK, I'm just getting this in my ear now. This is of course the intelligence gathering group that ISIS is claiming responsibility, Peter
Bergen, for this. What is your reaction?
BERGEN: What's fascinating, Hala, is if you recall in the Istanbul attack, we haven't had an ISIS claim of responsibility. ISIS has repeatedly
attacked in Turkey, but not claimed responsibility. Clearly in Turkey they want to retain strategic ambiguity because Turkey has been a useful
transiting zone for people joining ISIS from around the Muslim world and so they want to maintain some ambiguity.
In this case, if we take this claim of responsibility to be, as it were, correct, they don't feel so constrained. They want to own this one. If
indeed this is an ISIS operation, I think it deepens, you know, the possibility of a real tragedy here.
GORANI: This is very far from the self-proclaimed caliphate territory. Where do these groups, ISIS inspired or affiliated, get their funding and
training? These are heavily around men with grenades and heavy weaponry in a country like Bangladesh.
BERGEN: That's a great question. I think there's a few responses to that. We've seen sort of wholly-owned subsidiaries of ISIS in places like Libya
where the leadership is really part of ISIS, a lot of back and forth to Syria.
We've seen, you know, obviously people going for training in Syria from around the Muslim world. Countries that are a long way away, Indonesia and
Bangladesh, in small numbers.
The other point I think here is often a local jihadi group will slap on the ISIS patch to make themselves bigger and badder. We don't know if this is
a directed operation, or a local group that's affiliated. Unfortunately, I think we can take this claim of responsibility pretty much at face value.
GORANI: All right. Peter Bergen, thanks very much. We'll let you go. One last question, a couple of few questions to Ali Riaz of Illinois State
University. This is your country, and you were telling me earlier that this is unprecedented in Bangladesh, a hostage situation with heavily armed
men. What in your opinion would it take to confront this threat in Bangladesh?
RIAZ: There are two things. One of course, is the militant groups that are operating, that needs to be addressed, there is a military part to it,
of course the security. Counterterrorism efforts need to be extended. The counterterrorism effort needs to be beyond the domestic politics.
There shouldn't be an environment within which terrorism is being politicized and partisan. That's number one. The second thing that needs
to be done is to rally around all forces, the civil society, and all political forces coming together.
[15:55:09]And that is to have a better and open democratic space, which would allow everyone to come together to combat this militancy and
It's a violent radicalism that is (inaudible), but we are also witnessing within the mainstream that extremism. All of these things are somewhat
connected to each other. And this cannot be separated to say, OK, counterterrorism would suffice. So this is what I think needs to be done.
GORANI: This dramatic escalation, and also well-funded, it seems like a well-trained group of men still holding 20 people hostage. This is not
some sort of, you know, murder off the back of a moped like we've seen some of these bloggers being so viciously attacked. So this, again, is making
it harder for authorities to confront, because they're going to have to figure out how to challenge militarily trained men.
RIAZ: Absolutely. I mean, this is one part of things. They have indicated and insisted that this is not a sporadic incident by individuals.
It appears to be very well-coordinated. That means that now that the tentacles of this militant group and now ISIS is claiming this attack, it
seems they have been involved.
A lot of people have warned that this could happen if the domestic environment continues to be conducive to this situation. That's why there
needs to be a concerted effort to confront this. There's a political element to it and at the same time (inaudible).
GORANI: As there always is, political issues as well as these extremism issues as well. Ali Riaz, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate
it. We're sorry this is happening to your city.
Just a quick recap before I hand it off to my colleague, Richard Quest. We have new figures now, two dead in this attack, the two are police officers,
40 injured, 20 people still being held hostage in a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh. And six to eight heavily armed men inside.
We will continue to follow this story and continue to follow breaking news coverage here on CNN. After a quick break, Richard Quest will take over.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.