U.S. citizen among at least 20 killed in Bangladesh attack

Gunmen killed at least 20 people, including one American citizen, in an attack on a bakery in a diplomatic zone near the United States embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Reuters reported.

A group of men with guns entered the Holey Artisan Bakery shortly after 9 p.m. on Friday and held customers and staff hostage, the Associated Press reported. Gunfire cracked the air, and the gunmen detonated explosives during the siege, according to the AP. The assault ended Saturday morning after Bangladeshi troops charged the restaurant.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State but could not be immediately confirmed, Reuters reported.

An estimated 35 hostages were taken during the attack and held for approximately 11 hours before police stormed the building, killing six of the assailants, according to the AP. Thirteen people were rescued, but 20 died in the attack.

“We can confirm that a U.S. citizen was also among those senselessly murdered in this attack,” the U.S. State Department said, in a statement released on Saturday.

Two Emory University students also were among the victims, according to a statement released by school officials Saturday. Additionally, at least nine Italian citizens, seven Japanese and one Indian, along with people from South Korea and Bangladesh were killed, the AP reported.

Two police officers died during the siege and at least 40 people were injured, CNN reported.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to CNN.

The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka advised people in the area to shelter in place via social media and monitor local news outlets.

In recent months, Bangladesh has been in a state of upheaval that included a series of targeted killings where activists, atheists, bloggers and professors were hacked to death.

Throughout Bangladesh’s history, this level of violence has not been seen before, said Brad Adams, executive director for Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

“If you work in academia, if you work in the media, if you work in the arts, you must feel like you could be targeted right now, and you have no sense of security,” Adams said.

Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch explains how a recent string of murders targeting bloggers and activists in Bangladesh chills freedom of expression across the country. Video by PBS NewsHour

The PBS NewsHour will continue to update this developing story as details emerge.