Italians among hostages in Bangladesh capital attack

Italian nationals are thought to be among the hostages taken by gunmen who stormed a cafe popular with foreigners in the capital of Bangladesh on Friday, a source at the Italian foreign ministry said.

The source said it was not clear how many Italians may be involved. Gunmen stormed a restaurant in the diplomatic quarter of Dhaka on Friday night and took about 20 people hostage, including several foreigners, in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

The Islamist militant group said more than 20 people had been killed, but police have so far confirmed the deaths only of two policemen.

Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Twitter he was closely following the situation in Dhaka, adding he was "anxious for Italians involved" and expressing solidarity with their families.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi abruptly left a ceremony at the Colosseum in Rome on Friday evening to follow the hostage-taking incident, a source at his office said.

Italian state TV RAI broke off regular programming to give updates about the situation. It said Italians could be among the hostages or the victims.

The source at the Italian foreign ministry said families of people potentially involved were being contacted.