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Mumbai's business district turns into a war zone

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai | November 27, 2008 12:41 IST

South Mumbai's business district of Nariman Point seems to have turned into a war zone.

Tension and fear engulfed the Nariman Point area on Thursday morning as terrorists took shelter in Trident Hotel (earlier called Oberoi), holding an undisclosed number of people hostage and engaging security forces in a fierce gun-battle.

Many commercial establishments and offices were shut down and people trying to get to their work places were turned back by the police who have cordoned off the entire area as a security measure.

"We have been hearing only gun shots since last night," said S P Singh, a guard at Hoechst House, about 100 meters away from the Oberoi, which is one of Mumbai landmark hotels.

"Some lucky ones escaped, but others could not manage to do so. What is worse is that nobody knows how many terrorists are hiding inside the hotel. Everybody is guessing the number. However, since the last two hours (since 9 am), we have not heard any shots being fired in the hotel," said Singh.

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  • Pointing to a window, with a shattered pane, on the fourth floor of the hotel, he said: "I have been seeing one man at that window. But from this distance I cannot tell if he is a terrorist or a hostage."

    Some foreign tourists did come out of the hotel, looking exhausted following their horrifying night-long ordeal. A few of them had blood stains on their clothes. However, they refused to comment on what was going on in the hotel. "Please excuse us," was the only thing they would tell journalists anxious for information.

    Meanwhile, all the approaches to the Oberoi hotel -- from NCPA road, from the Inox [Get Quote] theatre, and from the Air India building -- have been blocked by the police, who have been having a tough time controlling anxious people who have gathered to see what is going on at the hotel.

    "I am just curious to see what will happen next," said Satish Pujari, a waiter at a nearby hotel. "Since all the hotels are shut, there is no work and nothing to do. So I have come here to watch what is happening. I just cannot believe that this is Nariman Point area. The place is normally full of stock brokers and office-goers. . . all of them have gone, and the military and police personnel have replaced them today. I hope this ordeal ends soon," added Pujari.

    Pooja Gandhi, who had a job interview at a travel company's office in Maker Tower II, was apprehensive about her future too.

    "When I came here, I got to know that there would be no interview. I was hoping to get this job, but there is no one in the office. I hope this stand-off ends soon," said Gandhi.

  • Terror strikes at Mumbai's heart
  • Terror attacks rock Mumbai, 100 killed, 300 hurt
  • Pix: Mumbai bleeds | Video: Taj on fire | Video 2

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