DHAKA – Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday declared two days of mourning and pleaded with Islamic extremists to stop killing in the name of religion after the killing of 20 hostages during a deadly siege at a restaurant near Dhaka’s diplomatic quarters.

“Islam is a religion of peace. Stop killing in the name of the religion,” Hasina proclaimed in a televised address.

“Please stop tarnishing our noble religion… I implore you to come back to the rightful path and uphold the pride of Islam,” she added.

The prime minister, whose government has been unable to stop the recent growing wave of attacks on foreigners, secular activists and religious minorities, urged a nationwide effort to combat extremism.

She asked people to set up “anti-terrorism committees” in districts and sub-districts across the Muslim-majority but officially secular country.

The 68-year-old premier said that the people behind the attacks were trying to ruin Bangladesh.

“By holding innocent civilians hostage at gunpoint, they want to turn our nation into a failed state,” she warned.