Bangladesh Forces Move to Free Hostages in Dhaka

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Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP) -- The Latest on the attack on a restaurant popular with foreigners in a diplomatic zone in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka (all times local):

10:35 a.m.

The commanding officer of Bangladeshi commandos says at least six of the militants have been killed and 13 hostages rescued after security forces cleared the main restaurant building at the end of the 10-hour standoff.

Lt. Col. Tuhin Mohammad Masud told The Associated Press that some militants were captured.

He says: "We have gunned down at least six terrorists and the main building is cleared but the operation is still going on."

About 35 people were taken hostage, including about 20 foreigners, when gunmen stormed the Dhaka restaurant on Friday night.

Masud says the rescued include a Japanese, who was injured, and two Sri Lankans.

He says there are casualties among other hostages, but did not provide details.

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9:30 a.m.

The sound of two big explosions has been heard from inside the Dhaka restaurant where security forces battled militants holding dozens of hostages, and a police official says five bodies were seen lying in pools of blood.

Security forces stormed the restaurant early Saturday to end the 10-hour standoff with militants.

In Tokyo, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda says 12 people were rescued in the raid, including two foreigners, but he couldn't say if they were Japanese.

About 35 people were taken hostage, including about 20 foreigners.

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8:20 a.m.

Gunshots and explosions are heard as Bangladesh security forces are moving to end the 10-hour standoff with militants who stormed a Dhaka upscale restaurant and took dozens of people hostage.

Local TV stations reported that the operation began at 7:40 a.m.

Army personnel with automatic weapons have joined the operation.

At least seven armored vehicles are being used while several ambulances are on standby.

Local media reported that an Argentine and two Bangladeshis were rescued from the restaurant early Saturday, but details about their condition were not immediately available.

Journalists are not allowed near the scene.

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7:20 a.m.

A news agency affiliated with the Islamic Group has posted photos purportedly showing the bodies of hostages lying in pools of blood in the Dhaka restaurant where militants were holding about 35 people.

The authenticity of the pictures, carried by the Amaq news agency and monitored by the SITE Intelligence Group, could not be independently confirmed.

The same report says 24 people have been killed and 40 wounded, including foreigners. That figure could not be confirmed either.

Police say two officers were killed and 26 people wounded in a gunbattle with the militants as the standoff continues into Saturday morning.

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Japan says that Japanese citizens may be among the hostages being held in Bangladesh.

The top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said at a hastily called news conference Saturday morning in Tokyo that the government is trying to confirm the information.

He says the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka set up a response center at 2:45 a.m.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that saving lives is the top priority.

Heavily armed militants struck at the heart of Bangladesh's diplomatic zone on Friday night, taking at least 35 people — including about 20 foreigners — hostage in a restaurant. Two police were killed and at least 26 people wounded in a gunbattle.

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5:50 a.m.

A member of Bangladeshi security forces say authorities are planning to launch a coordinated response at dawn Saturday to end the hostage-taking by militants inside a Dhaka restaurant popular with foreigners.

According to internet service provider Aamr, authorities also ordered internet services to be blocked across the country.

A member of the Rapid Action Battalion, identifying himself as Lt. Col. Masood, told Indian TV that he attackers "have not responded to authorities' calls for negotiation."

He says a police cordon would prevent any of the attackers from escaping.

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3:00 a.m.

The U.S. State Department says it has seen the claims of responsibility by the Islamic State group for the hostage-taking in Dhaka but cannot yet confirm it.

A White House official said President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack by his chief counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco. The president asked to be kept informed as the situation develops, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the president's meetings.

State Department spokesman John Kirby says the U.S. is in contact with the Bangladesh government and has offered its assistance to bring those responsible to justice.

He said all official American personnel are accounted for with no injuries reported, and the department is working with local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens and locally-employed staff were affected.

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1 a.m.

Police say two officers have been killed by attackers who stormed a restaurant popular with foreigners in a diplomatic zone in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, taking dozens of hostages and exchanging gunfire with security forces.

Hospital authorities said another 25 officers and one civilian were being treated for injuries, including 10 people listed in critical condition. The injuries include bullet wounds and broken bones, they said.

The Islamic State's Amaq News Agency said the attack on the restaurant was carried out by "Islamic State commandos," according to the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activity. Bangladesh authorities did not immediately respond to the claim.

As many as nine gunmen attacked the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka's Gulshan area on Friday night.

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