A 12-hour ordeal
The militants asked some of the hostages to recite from the Holy Quran to confirm whether they are Muslims. Those who could were spared, and the others who couldn't were brutally hacked to death on Friday night, said the father of one of the hostages rescued from Holey Artisan Bakery in the capital's Gulshan.
They gave the Muslim hostages food, said Rezaul Karim, the father of Hasnat Karim who was held hostage at the Spanish restaurant in the diplomatic zone for around 12 hours.
Rezaul, a businessman, and his wife Hosne Ara Karim briefly shared with The Daily Star the ordeal their son and three more family members had to go through on that fateful night.
Hasnat, his wife Sharmin Karim, their 13-year-old daughter Safa, and eight-year-old son Rayan, went to the upscale restaurant to celebrate Safa's birthday.
Soon after the army-led drive, “Operation Thunderbolt”, came to an end around 8:30am yesterday, the four came out of the restaurant and reunited with Rezaul and Hosne Ara, who had been anxiously waiting outside it.
Minutes later, Hasnat, his wife and their two children were taken to the city's Detective Branch office for giving their accounts of the incident, said Rezaul.
Quoting her son, Hosne Ara said, militants equipped with automatic rifles and pistols stormed into the restaurant soon after the four took seats inside it.
“The birthday celebration turned into a nightmare when gunmen burst into the restaurant and took the diners hostage,” she quoted her son as saying.
Hosne Ara continued, “Around half an hour later, the armed men asked people in the room whether they are Muslims. But they didn't ask this question to my son and daughter-in-law who was wearing a scarf around her head.”
“The gunmen then asked some of the hostages to recite from the Holy Quran to ascertain whether they are Muslims. They killed those who couldn't,” she added quoting her son.
Hasnat told his parents that an Indian national survived as the militants took him to be a Muslim.
Quoting his son, Rezaul said, “They [the gunmen] didn't behave harshly with the Bangladesh nationals.
“Rather they provided meals to the Bangladeshis,” he said, adding, “The women who were wearing scarf around their head were treated very well by the militants.”
According to both Rezaul and Hosne Ara, the gunmen killed 20 hostages, mostly foreigners, between 10:30pm and 11:00pm.
Japanese newspaper Kyodo News reported that it contacted a Japanese national, who had survived the militant attack.
Tamaoki Watanabe, who works for Tokyo-based consulting firm Almec Corp, told the newspaper that she was taking meal with seven fellow Japanese nationals when the militants barged into the restaurant.