It was one of the worst moments of his life. The 32-year-old assistant cook at the Holey Artisan Bakery had never thought of returning to life. It was horrible, awful! Shobuz Hossain was describing the worst-ever attacks in modern Bangladesh history, who has seen gunmen’s firing on foreigners on the fateful night of July 1 mentioning eight out of nine Italians sat together in an eight-member table.
“I initially thought that the guests themselves were fighting. I curiously stepped ahead to see. I saw two gunmen – one in front of the main door and another inside restaurant’s hall room,” Hossain told UNB at his tiny one-room residence in city on Friday afternoon.
He said one of the attackers opened fire targeting a table where eight Italians, out of nine, sat together. “Foods were already served for them. They tried to hide themselves below the table once firing was opened. We were hearing shouting, screaming and gunshots.” Hossain, who got the job barely 18 months back, said the Japanese citizens sat outside the restaurant’s hall room.
“The Japanese sat in the Lake-side corridor of the restaurant. It’s very breezy location. Many foreigners prefer to sit there,” he said. Hossain, however, does not know how and when the Japanese had been attacked as it is not possible to see outside from inside the kitchen.
The assistant cook used to work under the direct supervision of two foreign chefs – one Italian and another Argentinean. Right after the Italians came under attack, the Italian chef ran away through the backdoor with the Argentinean chef following him, Hossain said.
“We were 10 people and took shelter inside staff toilet-cum-bathroom adjacent to the kitchen. We were hearing gunshots and bomb explosions,” he said adding that attackers took control over a waiter at gunpoint to guide the attackers.
Slightly before zero hours, the attackers locked the door from outside and switched the lights off inside the bath. After two hours, at about 2am, the attackers appeared again. “Those who are Bangladeshi, come out. If you don’t come out we’ll hurl grenades,” Hossain quoted assailants as saying.
The attackers checked them all 10, and advised them to go inside the toilet again and locked it out. “At one stage, we felt suffocation and were facing a problem in breathing as time passes away. We kept saying we are dying inside, please take us out. They didn’t respond,” Hossain said.
By the time, it was dawn, around 6am. Then, he said, they broke the shower pipe and tried to break the steel door. Finally, a waiter, who was working as guide at gunpoint, came and opened the door. “Six of us went with the waiter and we four had been on the rooftop through stairs. Rab detained us when we jumped in another adjacent building,” Hossain narrated.
He said they were then taken to an adjacent residence in Gulshan area first and later to the Detective Branch office in the city for questioning. “We were set free around 5pm after questioning. Our family members received us from police,” Hossain said. “I got a new lease of life indeed!” he added hugging his 30-month-old only son.
According to him, restaurant owner Sadat Mehdi owns another restaurant, Izumi Japanese Kitchen, at road number 113 in Gulshan 2. This correspondent visited the restaurant on Friday and found it closed. Hossain used to work for Izumi before joining Holey Artisan Bakery.
Twenty-two people, including nine Italians, seven Japanese, one Indian national and two policemen were killed inside and outside the café during the attack on July 1. Later on July 2 morning, six people with five attackers were also killed during a commando operation. Thirteen of the hostages were rescued alive in the operation.
Meanwhile, blood-soaked young man Shawon who was detained from outside the Holey Artisan Bakery during the hostage standoff died at a city hospital on Friday afternoon.