RELIGION

Bangladesh under spotlight as terror attacks escalate

Bangladeshi security personnel cordon off the area after a group of gunmen attacked a restaurant popular with foreigners in a diplomatic zone of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, July 1, 2016. A group of gunmen attacked a restaurant popular with foreigners in a diplomatic zone of the Bangladeshi capital on Friday night, taking hostages and exchanging gunfire with security forces, according to a restaurant staff member and local media reports. (AP Photo)

Bangladeshi security personnel cordon off the area after a group of gunmen attacked a restaurant popular with foreigners in a diplomatic zone of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, July 1, 2016. A group of gunmen attacked a restaurant popular with foreigners in a diplomatic zone of the Bangladeshi capital on Friday night, taking hostages and exchanging gunfire with security forces, according to a restaurant staff member and local media reports. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

The taking of hostages by gunmen in Dhaka's diplomatic quarter is the latest in a string of attacks that have sparked international alarm.

The United States and Bangladesh have promised more cooperation against violent extremism in the Muslim-majority nation.

But the two governments still tiptoe around whether transnational terror groups like the Islamic State group are involved in the mounting bloodshed, which has included a wave of killings of liberals, foreigners and religious minorities.

The identities of those who attacked the Dhaka cafe late Friday were not immediately known.

IS and al-Qaida affiliates have claimed responsibility for many of the previous attacks, typically by smaller groups of machete-wielding assailants, that have claimed nearly two dozen lives since 2013. The frequency of attacks has increased in recent months.