Dhaka, July 1 (IANS) An eerie quiet engulfed the grounds of Dhaka's Holey Artisan Bakery on Saturday as people, including politicians and foreigners, gathered to pay their respects to the 22 victims, including 17 foreigners, of Bangladesh's worst terrorist attack on its first anniversary.
The Gulshan-2 building which was the scene of the attack no longer houses a restaurant, but has been converted to a residence for the owners, bdnews24 reported.
The building was opened to the public briefly on Saturday to allow mourners to pay their respects to the memories of the departed. Embassies and organisations placed wreaths at the site.
On the evening of July 1, five gunmen burst into the eatery and started firing indiscriminately. They turned off all the lights, held the diners hostage and sorted out targets through a test of reciting verses from the Holy Quran.
They then brutally killed the hostages with guns and machetes, and used the victims' phones to publish images of the bodies on the social media.
Around 12 hours later, para commandos stormed the restaurant and killed the six militants. Twenty hostages were brutally murdered with the café's floor strewn with bodies.
Two police officers were killed in the attack.
Japanese Ambassador to Dhaka Masato Watanabe and the Japan International Cooperation Agency's Country Director for Bangladesh Mikio Hataeda arrived at the Holey Artisan Bakery in the morning to pay their respects and placed flowers at the site.
Italian Ambassador to Dhaka Mario Palma and other members of the embassy too arrived at the building.
The ambassador presented flowers and gave a speech expressing his sorrow and his condolences. Some mourners broke down. The delegation was escorted out by police and did not speak to the media.
Seventeen of the victims of the Gulshan militant attack were foreign nationals. Nine victims were Italian and seven were Japanese. The Japanese victims were working on various development projects in Bangladesh.
One of the victims was an Indian girl Tarishi Jain, a student of the University of California in Berkeley. Her father had a garment business in Bangladesh.
Bipul Kumar Samaddar, the managing director of Italian buying house Studio Tex, led a delegation from the company to pay respects to the memory of his predecessor, Nadia Benedetti.
Reporters were not allowed to gather in front of the Holey Artisan gates in the morning, but were later allowed inside, bdnws 24 said.
"The foreign delegations requested that no photos be taken of their mourning," DMP Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Jasim Uddin told the media.
A delegation of Bangladesh police led by Additional IG Mokhlesur Rahman came to pay respects to Police Assistant Commissioner Rabiul Islam, Inspector Salauddin and the other victims of the attack.
"We had not experienced such an incident before. That day we took a decision to issue a challenge and fight this danger with our blood and with our lives. We did not want Bangladesh to be known as a terrorist state," Mokhlesur said.
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader led a delegation from the ruling party.
"Militancy has not been wiped out, but it has been weakened," Quader told reporters after paying his respects. "We cannot simply rely on state power. A platform must be developed using the power of patriotic unity."
The people must fight the sponsors of terrorism, he said.
Quader also praised the law-enforcement agencies for the success of their operations, saying that Bangladesh's security forces had bravely tackled militancy.
The opposition BNP delegation, led by Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, also paid their respects.
"We want no mystery surrounding this incident," Rizvi said after presenting the flowers. "Various foreign organisations have said the attack was planned by the Islamic State, but the government denies it."
"The government must unravel these mysteries and dispel the fear and anxiety among our people."