Return to Transcripts main page

IDESK

Gunmen Attack A Restaurant In Dhaka

Aired July 1, 2016 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[00:00:08] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN BREAKING NEWS.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: There's a very serious situation unfolding in Bangladesh. We understand police are engaging in fire. There is a battle,

an ongoing gun battle between gunmen in the diplomatic zone in the capital of Dhaka. We are also -- And we also understand that a hostage situation

is also evolving.

This is after a number of unknown -- an unknown number of gunmen came into the diplomatic quarter, it is 11:00 p.m. on a Friday night in Dhaka, and

opened fire. It's unclear on the number of injuries. We do understand there are injuries because local television is broadcasting images of

people who appeared to be hurt. It's unclear the extent of those injuries.

We're also hearing from police that this could be a restaurant. It is in terms of the location. They haven't given specifics. But what is

important to note is that this ongoing situation, both a hostage situation and a gun battle between gunmen and Bangladeshi police is ongoing right now

in the diplomatic quarter.

And we're hearing from the State Department as well, they have just issued a tweet giving us some response from the State Department. We're going to

bring that up here at the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka saying and confirming reports of shooting and a hostage situation in Gulshan 2. That is the

diplomatic neighborhood. It's an upmarket neighborhood in Dhaka.

They are asking diplomatic employees and they're asking citizens to please shelter in place to monitor news. They're telling people to stay where

they are, not to go out, we know this area has now been cordoned off, and to continually monitor news. And this is coming from the U.S. Embassy in

Dhaka.

Reports of shooting and a hostage situation, we're getting confirmation that that is on going from police in the Bangladeshi capital. This map

that you're looking at now on Google Earth shows Gulshan 2, the district where this attack is unfolding at the moment, it's an upmarket area of

Bangladesh where a number of diplomats, aid workers, journalists, and expatriates often go out to dinner.

We know that it is night time there as you can see from these images coming to us from local television. We see a huge number of police, of security

there. They appear to be waiting at least for some sort of order. We do not know what is the current situation except for the fact that police has

been telling us that there is an ongoing gunfight and it's unclear from the images. And I can't tell is these images are live or if they're from

earlier on.

Either way, our Sumnima Udas is standing by on the phone. You're in Delhi but you have visited Bangladesh a number of times and of course this

incident is hugely concerning. What more do you know? Hi, Sumnima.

SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL DELHI CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Robyn. The situation is still very unclear right at the moment but with the duty

officer at the police station in Gulshan, which as you mentioned is an upmarket area in Dhaka, the diplomatic area where a lot of embassies and

NGOs and U.N. officers are based, what the duty officer has told CNN is that an unknown number of armed people stormed the area near a Nordic Club

and started firing.

What he said is it could be restaurant or a hospital. He said an unknown number of people are trapped in those places. He couldn't get further

details. But basically, right now, what he said is gunmen are exchanging fire with police in that area. It's an ongoing situation on the local

channel as you can see police officers fully armed heading towards a building. It's dark of course. The whole area has been cordoned off but a

very tense situation there, Robyn. And right now, the police officers can't really tell -- give us more information on not, Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes. And just so our viewers know what they're looking at, these aren't live pictures. They were fed just recently within the last few

minutes from our affiliate in Bangladesh, those images showing what appears to be a massive police operation. We understand, as you say, that that is

ongoing. These aren't, however, live pictures. So, it doesn't give us a sense of what is happening right now.

We are though, Sumnima, getting confirmation that there is, in addition to a gunfight taking place nearby, the images that we're seeing now, there is

also a concerns about a hostage situation.

[00:05:10] UDAS: That's right. And as the duty officer from that police station mentioned to CNN, there are number of people trapped in that

building or in that area. He, again, couldn't say if it was a restaurant or a hospital, what exactly that building was, but it seems like those

people who are trapped could be some of the hostages as well. Again, very unclear at the moment.

I've been trying to reach a lot of the police officers we normally talk to in Dhaka and no one is reachable, understandably because they're probably

trying to asses the situation themselves. But again, gunmen exchanging fire with police in the diplomatic zone of the Bangladeshi capitol, this is

an upmarket area. This is where a lot of diplomats live, an ongoing situation, Robyn, and very, very unclear as to what exactly is happening.

CURNOW: And also, there has been real concerns about the rise of extremism in Bangladesh. And we've reported on it I think in the last few years. At

least 30 people have been hacked to death in broad daylight. These have been brutal, bloody, targeted attacks, but this seems very different.

UDAS: That's right. Most of the attacks that we've seen in the past in Dhaka, they're more -- mainly been attacking bloggers, atheists or Hindu

priest, Hindu writers, Hindu tailors as well in broad day light, most of them attacked with machetes, a lot of them in Dhaka but more recently in

more rural parts of Bangladesh. Again, most of the attacks have been against -- attacks against one individual or perhaps two people who are

perhaps perceived to be against Islam or have been writing against Islam.

In this case, this is the first time at least in the past year or two where we see gunmen attack an entire area, the diplomatic area. We don't know

who is responsible of course at the moment, who could be behind it. We also know that the Bangladeshi police and the government have been stomping

down on these extremist groups in Bangladesh. At least 10,000 to 11,000 people have been arrested just in the past few weeks.

Again, we don't know if this attack right now, this situation right now, is linked at all to what we've seen in the past year or two in Bangladesh in

terms of those attacks against bloggers and atheists and writers. But hopefully, in the next 24 hours or 48 hours or so, we should have more

clarity, Robyn.

CURNOW: And we know with those killings and that uptake in religious extremism and this focused targeting, we know that there wasn't a lot of

claim of responsibility locally but that ISIS and other terror groups quickly claimed responsibility online. Do we know the connections between

say ISIS and al-Qaeda and the rise of extremism in Bangladesh and in the region?

UDAS: Well, for some of the attacks that we have reported on in the past, ISIS has claimed responsibility. Well, now we've referred to the

government about that, they would deny that saying that ISIS is not present or involved in Bangladesh at all, and has always claimed local extremist

and said that ISIS is not present in Bangladesh. So that has been the government's mind all along.

Now, of course, there are analysts who say why would ISIS attack a Hindu tailor in rural Bangladesh? That's not typical of how ISIS -- of ISIS'

attacks in other parts of the world.

So there are analysts who sort of question ISIS taking responsibility for some of these attacks against, you know, some of these people who are not

that well-known in Bangladesh. The attack about a year-and-a-half ago or even until a year ago were -- those were more high profile against

bloggers, atheists, writers who are more well-known. And in the past few months, there seems to be a shift.

That's what analysts have been saying, where more recent attacks have been again people who are less well-known. So they don't know for sure right

now if they can for sure say if ISIS was behind any of those attacks. But yes, you're right, Robyn. ISIS has claim responsibility in a few of these

cases.

CURNOW: And it's unclear what is unfolding now as well, what we have and what we do know in terms of information is the confirmation from

Bangladeshi police that there is an ongoing gun battle between attackers who seem to have targeted the diplomatic area of Dhaka, the capital of

Bangladesh.

[00:10:07] We know there are injuries because we have seen images coming from local television. It's unclear the extent of the injuries.

This is the diplomatic quarter in Bangladesh where there are a number of embassies where people have been gathering on a Friday night. It appears

also, according to the police, that this was a restaurant that might have been targeted. Also, the fact that this is ongoing, of huge concern, and

also of huge concern, Bangladeshi police telling CNN that there is an -- a hostage situation also unfolding.

It's unclear if these people are trapped or if they're deliberately being held hostage. Either way, there are a number of people whose lives are

still in danger as this ongoing operation continues. It's also unclear just how many gunmen are involved in this.

With me on the phone as you've been hearing, Sumnima Udas, she's covered this region extensively. Just paint a picture of what this area in Dhaka

is like on a Friday night.

UDAS: Well, this is the diplomatic area, Robyn. And it is -- there's a lot of restaurants there, there's a lot of cafes there. Most of the

embassies are based there as well. So around this time, obviously, with Eid going on as well, Ramadan going on as well.

Presumably, there were a lot of people in that area. But again, right now, we don't have enough details more and the police haven't been able to give

us much information because it is an ongoing situation.

Right now, the duty officer in that area of Gulshan has told CNN that it could be a restaurant or a hospital. An unknown number of people are

trapped in those places. He said, an ongoing situation, people are trapped, some of them perhaps held hostage as well, the whole are has been

cordoned off. Robyn?

CURNOW: Sumnima Udas, thank you so much for updating us on what we know at the moment, this unfolding situation in Dhaka. I appreciate it.

Well, just to bring you up to date on what we know and we're getting this information from police in Bangladesh. You're also seeing these images of

police gathering in Dhaka as we know that somewhere near there as they were preparing to go forward, these police were exchanging fire with gunmen in

the diplomatic zone.

The police say an unknown number of gunmen are involved. Also, they're telling CNN that it's possible that people are trapped, that there is also,

in addition to this ongoing gunfight, a hostage situation. Also, I want to bring up a tweet from the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh. That tweet confirms

a hostage situation and a shooting situation is ongoing in Gulshan 2. This is the neighborhood, an upmarket neighborhood in Dhaka, the diplomatic area

where a number of diplomats, aid workers, journalists, expatriates gather on a Friday night.

The U.S. Embassy there, you can see asking people to please shelter where they are and to monitor news. Well, we will continue to bring you all the

latest on this unfolding situation. You're watching CNN. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:16:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN BREAKING NEWS.

CURNOW: Hi there. We are following this BREAKING NEWS from the diplomatic zone in the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Now, we've been tracking and

getting reports of an ongoing gun battle in Dhaka from police. Its unclear how many gunmen may be involved, but we do know that it is ongoing.

We also know from the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh who is -- which is issued a tweet, they are also confirming a hostage situation is playing out as

well. This is at a place called the Holey Artisan Bakery. It is just after 11:00 p.m. at night in Dhaka, a Friday night. No doubt people would

have been out on the streets, at a bakery, at a restaurant like this, enjoying dinner or at least a snack.

This is the diplomatic zone, a diplomatic area in Dhaka. So, assume that a number of expatriates, a number of diplomats, aid workers, journalists, as

well as Bangladeshis would have been gathering in this upmarket neighborhood of Dhaka on a Friday evening. And we know that that was

dramatically punctured by gunmen rushing into this area. We know that there is a hostage situation. What we don't know is how many people are

caught up, are trapped in this hostage situation.

Bangladeshi police have been telling CNN that they directly fired back at these gunmen. What you're seeing now are images from local Bangladeshi

T.V. of policemen, as you can see, they're in their right gear, their highly protective gear. It is not live, these are not live pictures.

We have been getting some feeds from local television. We're not showing those to you because there are images of a number of people who have been

injured, who have sustained injuries at least in this initial attack by these gunmen and then perhaps in the followup gun battle that we understand

is still ongoing. We do not know the extent of these injuries. We also don't know if there are any fatalities. It is all very unclear at the

moment because this is ongoing.

It is also unclear just how many people stormed this restaurant, the Holey Artisan Bakery on a Friday night in the Bangladeshi capital. And again,

the U.S. Embassy, not only issuing a confirmation of this gun battle and of a hostage situation playing out, but they also asked people to shelter in

place, to not move, to stay safe if they could, and that they should monitor news. I think we can bring that tweet up now.

The U.S. Embassy, there you go, in Dhaka saying and confirming that reports of shooting and a hostage situation in Gulshan 2. That is the upmarket

diplomatic zone in the Bangladeshi capital. Please shelter in place and monitor news.

Difficult even for us to monitor exactly what is going on. It is a very chaotic scene in the Bangladeshi capital. But we do know that there is a

very serious security situation unfolding there. And this comes after an uptick in extremism in the Bangladeshi capital. There has been a trend of

targeted killings of machete hackings of atheists, of bloggers, of a number of Hindu priests in recent years. These have all been done in broad

daylight with machetes, targeted killings.

And this incident that we're seeing now is very different in terms of the modus operandi of what we've been seeing in terms of the violence and

extremism that has been increasing in Bangladesh, because this is not a single targeted attack on somebody who disagrees with extremist Muslim

views.

[00:20:17] Instead, this is a gun attack. It involves more than one person being targeted. We do not have yet numbers of how many people were sitting

in that bakery and in the location around it this Friday night in Dhaka. This involves a far bigger seemingly coordinated attack on a diplomatic

area that would have been filled on a Friday night with expatriates, with diplomats, with journalists, with aid workers, with Bangladeshis all

enjoying the end of the week.

It is a bakery which we believe has been targeted, a bakery, of course, not known as a place where you would feel unsafe on a Friday night, but real

concerns from authorities in recent years about this increasing extremism. We do know in the last few months, the Bangladeshi government has certainly

put more effort into cracking down on extremist groups after there was criticism that they weren't doing enough to stop the targeted attacks,

these machete attacks against bloggers and atheists and religious minorities in the region.

But we do know that there has been an increase in police activity in terms of trying to root out extremism. And this has been a time of deep concern

within the Bangladeshi capital particularly but also across the country, where we have seen a number of these killings. But what is different about

this attack that is unfolding is that it seems a number of gunmen have been involved and are -- and continue to be involved in a standoff with police.

Alexandra Field is in Istanbul, our correspondent who is covering -- has been covering a terror attack there. But Alexandra, you are recently in

Bangladesh. And are you getting any more information on what might be unfolding?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT BANGLADESH: Yes. I've been speaking to some of our contacts who are in Dhaka, people who we've been speaking to

just a few weeks ago about their growing concerns about their own safety in this country. And they were very quick to get on Facebook and Twitter

tonight to start to say that they had seen some concerning activity in the Gulshan area which is, you know, heavily populated and visited by expats.

It's an area where diplomats spend a lot of time. They were posting things on Facebook saying that the roads were closed down, that they were seeing

heavy police presence there.

I've been talking to one of them on the phone who says that everyone is just deeply concerned and deeply fearful right now. What is so alarming

about all of this is that this is sort of the state of fear that people have been living in increasingly there. Now look, this is very different

it seems from what we have seen over the last year.

We've been in Bangladesh reporting on the series of machete murders, hacking deaths, where secular activists have been targeted, bloggers,

atheists. We have no confirmation of what the situation is right now, what has motivated it, whether this is an act of terrorism, whether this is

something domestic, whether this is something specific. But it does fall in line with the general climate of fear that people are experiencing.

They say that there is increasingly less tolerance for others.

Remember, this is a secular state. Yes, there is a Muslim majority there. But religious minorities feel that they have been targeted. There have

been deaths of LGBT activists, so people have been increasingly feeling fearful there. I had spent some time in Bangladesh shocking the young

people who say this just isn't the country that they grew up in. Many of them had actually had plans to leave the country. I've stayed in touch

with them since I left and some of them have said that just the uptick in attacks has forced them to reconsider whether or not they will stay there.

We cannot underscore enough the point that we do know -- do not know what has motivated the current situation in Bangladesh, what is driving this.

We do know that ISIS and al-Qaeda have tried to take credit for some of the individual machete attacks in recent months and in the past year. But the

government has continued to persist in saying that those terror groups do not operate inside of Bangladesh, Robyn.

CURNOW: Alexandra Field, thank you so much for bringing us that perspective. I'm going to let you go because I want to read a tweet from

the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka. We're going to bring it up on the screen.

And that is what we know. This in fact is coming from the State Department, another tweet, more information from the U.S. State Department

confirming a hostage situation in Dhaka in the Bangladeshi capital at the Holey Bakery. This is in a diplomatic, unclear this is coming from the

State Department.

They are urging people to monitor local news. And for more on this, for more analysis on a situation that continues to unfold in the Bangladeshi

capital, I'm going to go now to Bob Baer. He is CNN's Security Analyst.

[00:25:05] And as Alexander Field says, it's dangerous to jump to conclusions here. But either way, this is a major escalation in terms of

security, like a security incident in this -- in a Bangladeshi capital.

ROBERT BAER, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. I used to work in South Asia and we always considered Bangladesh an entirely secular country.

There were no radical movements because there were no assassinations that occurred. I mean -- or really any sort of political violence with weapons.

It is always a conflict between Bangladesh and India.

So this is just completely unprecedented, if in fact it's politically motivated. And, you know, just these assassinations of the bloggers, LGBT

and the rest is completely something new, something that no one predicted five years ago. And if indeed this is inspired by the Islamic State or

another Islamic group, this is a dangerous precedent for a country that's very poor and just trying to hold it together.

CURNOW: And what is the security -- what are the security authorities like? I mean we've seen some images as we're speaking to you now. We

understand from police that they're still engaged in an ongoing gun battle. How stretched have they been? What kind of pressure have the police been

under? How have they managed with this uptick in violence?

BAER: Well, they've never quite seen anything like it. I mean, they don't have the training of most countries. It's so expansive to deal with armed

violence to this degree. They don't have good SWAT teams. I mean their intelligence service is good but is strained very traditional. And they've

done their best against this threat, this Islamic State threat.

But I think they were surprised. And I just -- you know, all the time I spent in South Asia, I'm surprised too. And I'm also surprised that these

people have been able to get enough weapons to hold an area and of course the diplomatic quarter, you know, this may involve foreigners. We just

don't know yet.

CURNOW: It does appear to involve foreigners. We don't know the exact number of people who are trapped or being held hostage. We know that it is

at a bakery, that it happened sort of in the evening on a Friday evening as people were gathering in this diplomatic area. So we can probably assume a

number of diplomats, Bangladeshis, aid workers, journalists were gathering.

We're also getting some information about the assailants throwing grenades at police. So in addition to a gunfight, when you talk about ammunition

and the weaponry involved, there certainly seems to be more than just a gunfight.

BAER: Absolutely. Grenades in Bangladesh taken by political groups like this is unprecedented. This isn't like the Middle East where there's arms

everywhere. And it's tightly controlled and they're not privately held, especially automatic weapons and grenades.

So I mean, how precisely these were smuggled in from maybe a sum, I just don't know. But this is an internal conflict and Bangladesh is very much

on the edge. I mean if you see -- you can't call it a failed state. But as the violence continues, you move closer to that.

CURNOW: And under this political context let's just talk about what might be unfolding now. It's difficult to ascertain how long this has been going

on, but at least for the last hour or so. And as I was saying, we're getting information that it's not just a gunfight, that grenades are being

lobbed at police, that there is an elite bomb disposal unit of police standing by, a number of people trapped or injured. I mean this going to

be a desperate situation.

BAER: Yes. And I think we need to put it in context. We certainly don't know what's motivated these people. That might take a day or two. But you

have to look at the attacks in Istanbul. You have to look at the attacks in Lebanon against the Christian village, multiple suicide bombers, even

the attacks in Yemen and Jordan as well. The Jordanian intelligence has told me it's a dire situation that there's some sort of campaign on the

Islamic State.

Again, I cannot link the two. But in my mind, I just look at this succession of attacks that have occurred over the last two weeks. And I

jump to the next conclusion as the fall of Fallujah. And a lot of these people in Bangladesh identify with the Sunni Muslims who have died in

Fallujah in the Islamic State or just Sunni Muslims in general because Bangladesh is a Sunni state.

They look at this as some sort of apocalyptic war going on. And the only that make them do is lash out against foreigners or anybody or Shia Muslims

that appear to be a threat.

[00:30:03] I just do not think we can underestimate this sectarian was going on the Middle East between the Shia and the Sunni.

CURNOW: And then the global consequences, the domino effect of that in places like Bangladesh.

BAER: Exactly and it seems so far away and Bangladeshis probably don't even know Iraqis or Syrians but yet they identify with them. So when we

are putting pictures of bombing, you know, convoys coming out of Fallujah on the news, they see this and they see this is an existential threat to

them as Sunnis. And this has been consistent over. So really since 2003, since the invasion of Iraq and the rise of Fallujah in 2004, and eve the

Orlando attacks.

I mean we can write this up as psychopath. But the fact is psychopaths very quickly go from a mental illness to deep belief. It is very common

and it really doesn't matter whether it's centrally controlled from a place like Raqqa or simply inspired by events like Fallujah.

CURNOW: Bob Baer, standby. Thank you so much for your invaluable perspective. I want to take us back to Sumnima Udas, our reporter in the

region who has traveled in Bangladesh for a number of years, reported from there. And we're also getting a little bit more information, Sumnima, on

the location of this ongoing hostage and gun battle in Dhaka in the diplomatic zone. We understand that it is a bakery, there it is, a bakery

by day and a Spanish restaurant by night.

UDAS: Certainly, that's what the government (ph) officials have told us. That it is a bakery by day and a Spanish restaurant by night. What they

say is few assailants entered that bakery and restaurant in the evening. Dozens have been held hostage, some of them could be foreigners is also

what we're hearing according to local police officers. A few people is what they said. A few people are still trapped in that area.

Earlier, we were also reporting that the attackers have been throwing grenades towards the police. So this is very much still an on going

situation, Robyn.

And just to give you a little bit more details on the area, Robyn, this in an area, again, it's a diplomatic area, upmarket area. And it's usually

very well-guarded. There's always a security personnel around, if you can imagine, there's always guards outside every embassy. But in addition to

that, there's always police patrol patrolling the entire area.

So what happened here, how this happened, we still of course don't know. But from the video that was then seen from local channels, there's a lot of

police officers there in their full gear heading towards a building in a very dark area. Robyn?

CURNOW: Sumnima, thanks so much thanks so much, standby. I want to take us to Ambassador Jim Moriarty, the former U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh.

You're on the line, sir, from Florida as you piece together this information, listen to what we are been reporting. What are you're

thoughts?

JAMES MORIARTY, FORMER AMBASSADOR OF BANGLADESH: Well, my thoughts are basically that you're seeing a scuffling up of the effort to intimidate

Bangladeshis, to make it clear that the government isn't in total control of the situation. You have I think 35 to 40 individuals hacked to death,

who are shot to death over the past six or eight months.

And this is obviously a stepping up of this if they are holding hostages and killing people and throwing grenades at cops. That's a big increase in

the level of violence particularly, as your folks were saying, in the diplomatic enclave which is sort of the safest area in the country.

So they're trying to show that -- whoever is doing this is trying to show that they can get into the most sensitive areas of the country and carry

out an obviously stepped up attack to show that they can attack anywhere they want.

CURNOW: You're the former ambassador to Bangladesh. I'm assuming this is where you were based. Tell us what this area is like.

MORIARTY: Well, it's actually a very mixed area, OK. You do have the embassies located there but it's, I would say, several square miles and it

includes a lot of commercial areas. So it's a very mixed area.

But the previous speak was absolutely right. It's very heavily patrolled, big police presence. The current acts of killings actually started back in

September when an Italian working for a Dutch NGO got killed not too far from where this attack is taking place.

[00:35:03] CURNOW: And as you were talking, we were just getting some live pictures just to our viewers. We're seeing live pictures from our

Bangladeshi affiliate A.T. and we are seeing a number of journalists seeming to rushing towards activity, a lot of police security forces

milling around. There doesn't seem to be an imminent security operation at least from the pictures we're seeing, a lot of concern, a lot of walking

around, a lot of heavily armed police. However, they don't seem to be in some sort of operational mode.

It's unclear if this is a different area or if of course, as we're hearing, there is this hostage situation playing out. And other sections of the

police are trying to assess the situation and what to do.

We know from USAF, form at least the State Department and from the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka that there is this ongoing hostage situation and an

ongoing gun battle. Are you hearing anything else?

MORIARTY: No. I don't have anymore current information than what you have provided. It does look like there's a hostage situation occurring at the

embassy and I have no idea exactly about the situation on the ground.

CURNOW: And how concerned -- when you were the ambassador in Bangladesh, how concerned were you about extremism? We had Bob Baer there say that

when he worked in the region that Bangladesh was largely secular. However, this increase in extremism has certainly worried both the government and

the U.S. government.

MORIARTY: Yes. And I think political polarization within Bangladesh has actually given the extremists a little bit more room to operate. But when

I arrived, the government took very active steps against the extremists and they were actually pretty effective. So, by the time I left in 2011, the

situation seemed much calmer than it have been when I arrived in 2008.

Now, for a variety of reasons, and like I said, political polarization probably one of them, you're obviously seeing a very determined upshoot of

extremism there and a lot of violence going on, which was not what I saw the last year so in my posting in Bangladesh.

CURNOW: So this has been a rather unprecedented dramatic increase in the security situation within Bangladesh. Just tell us about your experience

in working with the Bangladeshi government, in particular, the capabilities of the security forces and how they're going to deal with the situation

that we believe is unfolding now.

MORIARTY: Well, we were actually able to work pretty closely with the Bangladeshis. When I was in the country, we had good cooperation. We

provided information that the Bangladeshi government acted on and usually acted on pretty efficiently. I think what you're seeing now is a different

sort of threat, you know, basically a threat that does have some ties at least philosophically to people outside the country. I.S. is trying to

recruit and in any event is taking credit for a lot of the attacks going on.

And then, a way that's more difficult than what we were facing where we were looking at, you know, basically organized groups. How do you get all

of the organized groups in the country when you have what seems like a much, much less coherent threat, you know, broken down into cells that are

consisting of lone wolves trying to terrorize the country. It's a much more difficult situation to control. And I think that's what you're seeing

right now.

CURNOW: And we're seeing images now. Its 11:38 p.m. in Bangladesh. We're seeing images of traffic which we know is pretty common in Bangladesh,

people trying to get some grip on the situation, a lot of journalists on the phone. Just describe the scene for us in this area. We know this was

a bakery during the day, a Spanish restaurant at night. What would the scene have been like?

MORIARTY: Well, you got to realize that this is Ramadan in a city that normally goes to that pretty late (ph) anyhow. So, this time of night,

you'd normally see a lot of people out on the street, so a lot of people driving around. It's a time where you just expect a lot of activities.

People go out to see friends, visit families, stop for food on the way, along the way. It's a very active city. And this diplomatic enclave is

sort of the epicenter of wealth in the entire country. So, yes, this would be a very busy time of day out there.

[00:40:01] CURNOW: And as we know this is the last Friday of Ramadan and they were concerned about an increase in attacks globally. As you were

saying, I mean, this is about political polarization about a growth of extremism. We know with the hacking disc, with the massacres of individual

bloggers and intellectuals that often they won't claims of responsibility from local groups, but it seem like that ISIS or even al-Qaeda jumped on

those incidents, those individual incidents and claimed responsibility.

How pervasive do you think the ISIS ideals would be in a country like Bangladesh or in the region?

MORIARTY: Well, it's important to realize that, you know, I always continue to believe that Bangladesh is predominantly pretty moderate in

terms of its religion. But when you take a population of 160 million and say that 90 percent of those are Muslim, and maybe 3 percent to 5 percent

of those are fairly fundamentalist in their views.

That totally is a huge call to draw. And as I said, the main Islamist party in the country has been banned from participating in elections. And

they had, you know, a lot of pretty radical, pretty aggressive use within their ranks where all of a sudden looking for some place to go I guess was

a nice place to put it.

And it would not be surprise -- I would not be surprised if some of these folks are going to a much more radical alternatives to the former Islam, to

the Islamist party that participating in elections and played the Bangladesh in political game.

CURNOW: OK. Thanks so much for your perspective. Stand by, Ambassador, I want to go back to our correspondent Sumnima Udas are we hearing anything

more, just bring us up to date on what we know so far about this terrible situation on folding in Bangladesh.

UDAS: None at the moment, Robyn. All we know is that some assailant entered that bakery/restaurant around 8:45 p.m. That's what a staff member

from that restaurant/bakery has said. They, according to him, lost his several crews on causing wide scale panic among everyone. This person had

actually managed to fleet during this confusion but he also said they came on with pistol, sword and bombs.

Again, a lot of this we still need to confirm with police officers. So that's what we're hearing at the latest that we're hearing about this.

CURNOW: And we're also of course getting confirmation that there is a hostage situation and ongoing gun fight that's coming from both the U.S.

embassy in Dhaka and the state department.

OK. So we've (ph) lost Sumnima Udas. She was just updating us on what was happening. I'm going to go back to the Ambassador Jim Moriarty. He is a

former U.S. ambassador and he worked within this region.

Ambassador, just from your perspective I just want to ask to paint a picture of what might be unfolding on the ground that you worked, you

lived, you were based in this area, we're seeing some images, shaky images coming out of Dhaka right now. Just tells us what it would be like on a

Friday night.

MORIARTY: Well, like I said this is a -- this is part of Bangladesh and there is a lot of single family homes, a lot of upscale apartments, good

restaurants in town. And so, you know, particularly, you know, the end of Ramadan everybody is going to be going out on the streets, meeting with

firmly. And that they are so they're going to start going back to their traditional villages. So this is a time, excitement and overall a very

happy positive time in Dhaka.

And particularly in this, you know, very, you know, relatively rich area of the town and of the country. So, normally it would be a beehive of

activity, you see people chatting, people -- you have kids out there with their parents this late because it's a big deal. Ramadan is an exciting

time and particularly if the coursing on end, the intensity, the -- just to share a joy of being a family and friends with this very important time

increases.

So, normally we'd expect to see a very busy city with lots of, you know, happy people doing about their business and mostly being with family and

friends.

CURNOW: So it's the last Friday of Ramadan and there would have been, as you said, a lot of Bangladeshis gathering, celebrating, also though this is

an area where many expatriates, diplomats are based.

[00:45:09] MORIARTY: Absolutely. And, you know, I mean the expats vary a little bit but they kind of get a kind of being -- a kind of -- a little

bit and you see a lot of folks staying out pretty late. It's, you know, this is South Asia where a lot of times you start eating food until 11:00

p.m.

Normally, you know, during Ramadan you're having Iftar immediately after sunset which would be around 7:00 p.m. now. But then as the night goes on

you have subsequent meal (INAUDIBLE) they call it hour later or around midnight. So it's a great big deal, a lot of people out eating with

friends.

So a lot of expats though because they have Bangladeshi trends and it's just a time of excitement and collegiality.

CURNOW: We're seeing images of Bangladeshi police. We've been asked and we're certainly not going to show any live pictures of this incident which

is apparently still ongoing. And this is of course coming from the army who say that any interest of national security we certainly are not going

to be broadcasting anything that might endanger those who are still being held hostage.

What we do know is at that building that you see on the left of your screen, it is a bakery during. It's called the Holey Artisan Bakery during

the day. And at night it becomes Spanish restaurant. It's on Road 79.

And, again, according to a local security authorities that a few customers. It's unclear how many customers of that restaurant who were eating on a

Friday night are trapped inside the restaurant. And, again, we have no idea or just how many either way deeply concerning. Because not only is

that this hostage situation ongoing but these gunman engaged in a fire fight with police and we also heard from a least one source that they were

throwing grenades back at police.

Ambassador, in terms of your experience of working in Bangladesh, of cooperating with Bangladeshi security, this capability, is this common?

MORIARITY: Not common but it's not unheard of. And, you know, it's a big upscale of details in between 2004 and 2007. At one point in 2005 a

radical Islamic group set off 420 bomb nationwide simultaneously. And there was a attempt on the current prime minister's life if I recall using

grenades and couple of shots back then.

So it's not unheard off but it's rare. It's very uncommon and it certainly have been uncommon since about 2006 or 2007 when the previous surge in

terrorism got under control.

CURNOW: Yes. And we also understand because these grenades are being thrown at police that an elite disposable but unit is standing by. It is

unclear to state of the stand off between police and this gunman who are holding hostages in a Spanish restaurant. It is very late in the evening

in Bangladesh. This is a situation that is unfolding and it has been unfolding for the past few hours.

And I have on the phone with me Ambassador Jim Moriarty who spent a lot of time working within Bangladesh. And we're going to ask you to stand by

because I'm also going to go to our correspondent Alexandra Field who's in Istanbul and covering a terror attack there.

However, Alexandra, you have covered Bangladesh, you are in contact with a number of Bangladeshis what are you hearing?

FIELD: That's right, Robyn. And we've just been speaking to you some of the people that we were in Dhaka speaking with just back in May. And one

of the women who I spoke about that time is telling you this evening that she was in Gulshan in the area that this restaurant is in. She said she

was about five or ten minute walk away and all of the sudden police were in the area. They were stopping people and what seem to indiscriminately to

hear they were searching people, they were turning away cars. That's when she first realizes that there was a situation that was developing there.

And she says that she left and returned to her neighbor that there was a handy police presence there pushing people and trying to keep to keep them

out.

She has also been talking to her friends who are enclosed proximity to the restaurant and they are reporting to her that they have just simply

barricaded themselves in their apartments and in their homes. Those are of course the orders that are being put out by officials right now telling

people to just shelter in place while they try to get their arms around this chaotic and frankly dangerous and devastating situation.

She said that they have almost no comprehension of what's going on. They're keeping their eyes on the news and just trying to figure it out,

but they realized that there's many police presence out there and that it is not safe for them to go out at this point.

You know, these are people who have been increasingly concerned, Robyn, about the situation in Bangladesh. They have seen a spate of attacks in

the last year and a half with very different style of attacks in what we're seeing unfolding tonight.

[00:50:07] And we should underscore, again, the point of we do not know who is behind this attack but they are talking about the spate of attack

they've seen in recent months. These have basically been what we've been calling machete murders. People who had hack been hacked to death. Groups

like ISIS and al-Qaeda taking credit for those killings. Even though the government in Bangladesh had said that those terror groups do not operate

within the boarders.

But people on the ground say not enough has been done to stop those attacks on individuals which I've included secular writers, atheist, academics,

LGBT activist and they fear that the situation is becoming increasingly intolerant in Bangladesh and that these attacks are going unchecked.

Their concern right now is that that what is happening right now could be the culmination of some of this.

Again, we have to say we do not know who is behind the attack tonight, but it has certainly intensified the fear that so many people in that country

have expressed that they have been feeling increasingly, Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes. And I think what is also important to note here we certainly have no idea who is behind this just yet. But either way, just based on

the facts that we are getting, this is a significant escalation in the type of violence that has been playing out.

As you said these machete attacks have been taking place, they've been target to assassinations essentially. Now what we're seeing here is a far

different of scenario.

FIELD: A totally different scenario on a totally different scale. All we can tell you right now about what's happening there is the fact that this

is a very heavily populated neighborhood, it's crowded, it's busy, it's urban and it's metro, it's the area that you would want to visit if you

went to Dhaka. It's full of restaurants, it's full of cafe and, you know, it's just sort of brimming with life and it's an area that lot of expats

are attracted to. It's where a lot of them live and work and eat. It's also a diplomatic on plate.

So this is a place that would have just been simply packed with people as everywhere in Dhaka really is. But this is truly the kind of thing that's

sparks real, an honest fear in so many people in that city tonight.

ROBIN: And the people that you are speaking to at the moment, how secure have they been feeling? Do they feel like the government would have a

handle on a situation like this?

FIELD: They have felt increasingly concerned for their safety. Look, Robyn, when we started focusing our coverage on Bangladesh about a year and

a half ago when these very prominent attacks on specific individuals began to come to light.

There was a feeling that there was a growing sensitive intolerance in this secular state where there is a Muslim majority that secular activist, that

people who were very public in their thinking were being specifically targeted. But that have last few moments has changed. And what we've

continued to hear from activist is that they feel that more people are at risk, more secular people are at risk, more liberal people are at risk.

And they've spoken just already been broad terms about this climate of fear, anxiety, uncertainty. And they've also pointed fingers to be quite

frank at the government, at the administration which they believe had not taken these attacks seriously enough. They believe that the government was

not acting swiftly enough to bring justice, to find the people who had perpetrated these attacks.

That said within the last month there's always a major effort from the government to round up a great number of people who they felt may have been

involved in these attacks. So there has been some movement on that end, but line from the administration has been that they believe that these

individual attacks, machete murders were orchestrated by the political oppositions. Something the opposition party has of course denied.

But when you talked to the late person on the street they are concern about terrorism in their country, they are concern about groups like ISIS and al-

Qaeda.

CURNOW: Just stand by, I just want to update you after seen that we've been getting some new information from the State Department, an e-mail just

crossing Spokesperson John Kirby has been reacting to this breaking news out of Bangladesh and this is a rough -- a transcription of what he said

just recently.

Again, the State Department confirming that there is a hostage situation ongoing in addition to this gun battle between police and gunman in Dhaka,

the State Department John Kirby also confirming that they're aware of local security forces on the seen responding, we know that that area around this

Spanish restaurant has been caught end of. Also, he is confirming that the embassy in Dhaka is currently conducting accountability.

Well, for more on this let's go straight to Washington D.C. Jim Sciutto is standing by. Jim, what are you hearing?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really and authorities on the ground there and U.S. authorities certainly have not identified the culprit

in the attacks yet. But this is what we know.

We do know that both ISIS and al-Qaeda are active on the ground in Bangladesh. We've seen a number of really just a horrid attacks in the

last year including hacking that's often in broad daylight of bloggers, journalist and there was a Hindu leader killed just in the last 24 hours.

So you have a recent history of terror there.

[00:55:11] And it's actually interesting that only yesterday that the U.S. designated al-Qaeda's affiliates in Bangladesh. It's a terrorist

organization. This is after the groups is held responsible for the death of American there.

So you have two Islamist groups present there in numbers and with capability. If it were to be one of groups the sad fact is that the

hostages will be in grave danger. But it is good to see that police in presence there working to respond to this, but truly a dangerous and

concerning situation on the ground.

CURNOW: And we know this is the last Friday of Ramadan. There have been concerned about attacks globally. What do we know about that?

SCIUTTO: Well, we know that ISIS in particular, its leader its spokesman called for attacks to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan we're coming to

the end of that. And sadly we've seen ISIS followers follow through on that call. Including it's believed the attacks -- horrible attacks on

Istanbul airport in just a few days ago as well as others.

This shows the ability of this group whether directed or not, because while it is believed the ISIS had coordination ties, ISIS leadership, ISIS

central to the attackers in Istanbul. And for instance if you look at the attack in Orlando which has a putative tied ISIS and that the attacker at

least claimed it for ISIS while he was there. It was not believed that there was any contact with ISIS.

But that's the way -- that's two ways that this group can effectively carry out carry either by organizing it, coordinating it, trainings, sending

folks in or just by making the call and having people answer that call and maybe with something as simple as reading -- simple as reading their call

or watching the video on the web. It's the nature of terrorism today.

CURNOW: Jim Sciutto in Washington, thanks you so much for that update. I'm Robyn Curnow, you're watching CNN and we're keeping a close eye on a

desperate situation that is unfolding in Dhaka in Bangladesh.

We know that a gun battle between gun man and police has been ongoing. We also know a hostage situation is currently ongoing at a Spanish restaurant

in the diplomatic quarter of Dhaka

We are unclear if there had been fatalities, we do know about a number of injuries is as because we've been seeing some injured people on eight feet

from local television. You are seeing some of that footage that is coming through. And as you can see security force is very much on alert.

We'll be right back with much more on the story after a short break, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END