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Taj op almost over, 3 terrorists killed: NSG chief

November 29, 2008 09:41 IST
Last Updated: November 29, 2008 13:24 IST

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The terrorist siege of Mumbai ended on Saturday morning with security forces killing three gunmen in the flushing-out operations to secure the iconic Taj hotel, nearly 60 hours after a band of ultras struck at various centres in the country's financial capital.

Commandos carried out combing operations in the 529-room hotel, the last theatre of action. But by way of abundant caution the NSG refused to declare that the operations were over.

There was no immediate word on recovery of bodies in Taj. The death toll in the terrorist mayhem has already reached 195, including 14 police and NSG personnel. In all, 14 terrorists were killed and one captured alive.

"Three terrorists have been killed but the operations are still on. Until we search the entire hotel room-by-room and satisfy ourselves that are no more terrorists, I will not declare the operations over," NSG Director General J K Dutt told media persons shortly after 0830 hours.

"Only guests could be there. There may be no terrorists," he said.

An AK-47 rifle was also recovered from them. "There was lot of shooting. Grenades were lobbed and explosives were used by the terrorists," he said.

The elimination of the three terrorists came after intense battle between the commandos, who believed there was a lone gunman holding out, and the terrorists who kept exploding grenades at periodic intervals.

Dutt said the terrorists set off fires whenever they came under pressure as a diversionary tactics.

On Friday, the security forces had regained control of the Oberoi-Trident hotel and the Nariman House where five Israeli hostages were killed.

The terrorists held out through the night in Taj and battle escalated in the wee hours today. The final assault began at the crack of dawn and the drama came to an end shortly after 0800 hours.

As journalists got closer for the first look at the devastated landmark hotel, an NSG commando showed thumbs-up signal from the second floor indicating the horror saga was over.

Smashed glass panes, damaged furniture, overturned chairs, burnt curtains and blood-spattered rooms with black scars of the raging fire bore mute testimony to the three-day terror rampage.

Two staffers of the hotel, who were in the thick of unprecedented gun battles, heaved a sigh of relief as they were ushered out by the security personnel.

Shortly after the operations, Tata group chief Ratan Tata alongwith top management of the hotel took stock of the situation.

Dutt said the operation to secure the over 100-year-old heritage hotel in Colaba area completely was still in progress.

"We cannot say the operation is over till we check the hotel. Each floor, each room will be checked to ensure that no more terrorist is hiding in the hotel or no explosives are hidden there, the NSG chief said.

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