Taj hostages rescued, encounter still on...

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Mumbai, Nov 27: Maharashtra Director-General of Police AN Roy on Thursday, Nov 27 said that all hostages held inside the Taj hotel by terrorists here had been rescued.

He said that some hostages were still trapped inside the Trident hotel and at Nariman House where a running gun battle was still on with terrorists, who had struck at various parts of southern Mumbai, killing between 80 and over 100 people and injuring 287 others. Police officials confirmed the killing of five terrorists, the escape of two and the arrest of nine. They also said that at least nine foreigners, including an Italian, had been killed by the terrorists. Media reports -- both television and print said that fierce firing is still on at Nariman House and at the Trident (Oberoi) hotel in Mumbai, besides firing between terrorists and National Security Guard (NSG) commandoes around the Taj Hotel.

A blast was been reported at Nariman House. NSG commandos are engaged in a gunbattle with six terrorists holed up inside the building. One terrorist holed up inside Nariman House in south Mumbai has been killed, police said.

An unspecified number of foreigners including Americans, Israelis and Canadians are thought to be among those in the hotels and in Nariman House, a residential complex with an old Jewish prayer hall.

The Army has entered the Trident hotel to flush out the terrorists.

Mahrashtra Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil told reporters here that there could be between 100 and 200 guests and workers trapped in the Trident-Oberoi Hotel, with 10-12 militants also inside.

Patil said they have not received any demands from militants and hoped that a breakthrough will be achieved soon. He described the operation as delicate in view of the hostages, whose safety had to be ensured. Police were pursuing some leads, hesaid, but declined to elaborate.

The terrorists are believed to have come in a boat to the Gateway of India, opposite Taj hotel.

Giving details of the terror attacks which began last night, DGP Roy said terrorists struck in quick succession and in all there was shooting in 12 places.

Roy made it clear that there would be no negotiations with the terrorists, and "we will very soon get them either alive or dead"

Earlier in the day, a senior army officer said at least four terrorists are holed up in the Taj Hotel where 40 to 50 guests were still trapped.

"In this area there are four to five terrorists," Major General R K Hooda, General Officer Commanding of Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat said. There are an estimated 40 to 50 guests still trapped in the hotel, he said.

There were also unconfirmed reports of a hostage-like situation in Cama hospital from where two terrorists in the wee hours tried to escape but were gunned down after a hot chase by the police near the Chowpatty-Girgaum crossing.

Terrorists used heavy machine guns, including AK-47s, and grenades to strike at the city's most high-profile targets -- the hyper-busy CST (formerly VT) rail terminus; the landmark Taj Hotel at the Gateway and the luxury Oberoi Trident at Nariman Point; the domestic airport at Santa Cruz; the Cama and GT hospitals near CST; the Metro Adlabs multiplex and Mazgaon Dockyard.

Sharp shooters of the army, NSG and other security forces moved into Mumbai's landmark hotels to overwhelm an unspecified number of terrorists still holed out there after several residents were rescued in the wee hours. About 800 personnel from armed forces and NSG were deployed from outside Mumbai and from Delhi

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 this morning as firemen struggled to douse them. A guest stranded in one of the rooms said two explosions shook the building.

Smoke was also seen billowing from the new building of the Taj Hotel -- which stands next to the old building where terrorists are holed up. While NSG operation was on in the old building, fire brigade personnel were trying to douse fire in the new wing. The top portion of the old Taj building was engulfed in fire after the blasts last night.

The luxury hotel Trident Oberoi 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.

The terror incidents have spread a sense of panic and fear in the metropolis, schools and colleges were ordered closed as also the Bombay Stock Exchange. 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.

Security personnel were seen summoning ambulances, an indication perhaps that some injured could be rushed to hospitals.

The little known Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the terror strikes in e-mails sent to some media organisations.

The attacks have taken a tragic toll on the city's top police brass. Anti Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare was killed as also 11 other police personnel. Mumbai's Additional Commissioner of Police (East) Ashok Kamte was gunned down outside the Metro; and celebrated encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar was also killed.

Some media reports attributed the attack to Lashkar-e-Taiba. There were also unconfirmed reports that some of the terrorists came in by sea. A boat laden with explosives was recovered later at night off the Gateway of India.

President Pratibha Patil, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have strongly condemned the deadly terror attacks in Mumbai and asked people to maintain calm.

"Such acts are highly condemnable," the President, who is on a four-day visit to Vietnam, said in a statement from Hanoi today.

The Vice President said such terrorist acts were aimed at destabilising the nation and urged all citizens to unite in this critical hour.

Expressing deep shock at the scale of attacks in the heart of Mumbai, Ansari, who is on a visit to Arunachal Pradesh, expressed the resolve of the people to fight terrorism.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while condemning the terror attacks last night, assured all help to Maharashtra in meeting the situation.

Dr. Singh will be addressing the nation later in the day after presiding over an emergency Cabinet meeting. The Cabinet Committee on Security will meet before the full Cabinet meet. The Prime Minister's election rally in Delhi scheduled for Thursday has been cancelled.

The Maharashtra Cabinet was scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. and there is also an all-party meeting at 3 p.m. The State Government has announced Rs.5 lakh as compensation for those killed and Rs. 50,000 for those seriously injured in the attacks.


ANI

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