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Security forces launch final assault on Taj
Firdaus Ashraf & Prasanna Zore in Mumbai | November 27, 2008 02:26 IST
Last Updated: November 27, 2008 14:35 IST
All hostages at Taj Hotel in Mumbai have been rescued, but there could be some still trapped at Trident hotel and Nariman House where operations were on to flush out terrorists, Maharashtra police chief A N Roy said on Thursday, ruling out any negotiations with the terrorists.
NSG sources add that four fidayeen (suicide bombers) have been killed in the attack.
Giving details of the terror attacks which began Wednesday night, Roy said terrorists struck in quick succession and in all there was shooting in 12 places.
The Director General of Police made it clear that there would be no negotiations with the terrorists, and "we will very soon get them either alive or dead".
Maharashtra government has put the death toll at 101 killed, including nine foreigners, and about 300 injured.
A union leader of Oberoi Trident hotel, who was inside the hotel when the terrorists struck at around 9.30 pm on Wednesday night, told rediff.com that there were four terrorists carrying bags full of explosives who fired indiscriminately in the kitchen. Four employees are reportedly to have been shot dead in the incident, and a few guests were injured, he said.
According to him, 40 people are currently holed up on the 17th floor of the hotel. When he last left the hotel, he saw commandoes entering the hotel, he said.
Raging fire and plumes of black smoke were seen billowing from the central dome of the century-old heritage Taj hotel opposite the Gateway of India on Thursday morning as firemen struggled to douse them. A guest stranded in one of the rooms said two explosions shook the building.
Another luxury hotel Trident was under siege with some terrorists holding some foreigners hostage. A tourist guide was worried about the fate of five Canadians he had put up in that hotel. Earlier in the night, explosions were heard in the hotel.
Exchange of fire intensified at Nariman House, a residential complex with a Jewish prayer hall, where also a hostage situation was prevailing. There were unconfirmed reports of a similar situation in Cama hospital.
Suburban trains and city buses operated normally but without usual rush. Except for cancellation of three international flights, domestic air services to Mumbai were maintained.
Images: Encounter on Marine Drive
Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said five police officers including Anti Terrorism [Images] Squad chief Hemant Karkare were killed in one of the worst terror strikes in the country's financial capital that in all claimed the lives of at least 11 police personnel.
"The operation (by security forces) is still going on," he said. Besides army commandoes, naval commandos and Rapid Action force personnel joined in the operations to rescue those stranded in the two hotels. Five columns of Army and 200 NSG commandoes have been rushed. Two sten guns have been recovered by the police so far, he added.
Deshmukh said it was not immediately known how many terrorists were involved in the audacious attack in ten places that shook the western metropolis. The chief minister assured that there were no terrorists inside Cama hospital.
The terrorists came by boats and struck at 10 places but their number is not known immediately, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said.
The terror attacks began between 9 pm and 9.15 pm with indiscriminate firing and bomb blasts, Deshmukh said.
The attackers threw grenades and fired indiscriminately while storming the hotels across Mumbai, he added.
Asked whether foreigners were the target of the attacks, the Chief Minister disagreed, saying it could not be said for certain.
The police said two terrorists continued to be holed up in Oberoi hotel. In Taj Hotel, there were reports of firing in its basement, after 100 guests were rescued.
Firefighters were spraying water at the blaze and were bringing out hotel guests with the help of snorkel ladders. It was not immediately clear what triggered the fire.
A previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attacks in e-mails to several media organisations.
Captain Vijay Raichand, who managed to escape from Taj Hotel, said, "Around 9:40 pm, I heard shots of gun firing which was coming nearer, we could also see some injured from the window. Once fire broke out in the hotel, it was scary since smoke started coming from a vent. We could not break the glass as it was tough and we panicked."
Another hotel employee, who did not want to be identified, said, "I was working at the bar when we heard a popping sound. I told a friend that it must be fire crackers from a wedding ceremony, however, I later learnt that some shooting was taking place in the palace room.
We locked the door and kept them away. Then the glass door burst and injured a friend. We panicked and ran to a locker room, where around 150 of us stayed for 6 hours, before we were rescued."
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