NSG launches final and biggest counter-terror offensive on Taj Mahal Hotel

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Mumbai, Nov.29 : National Security Guard commandos have begun a what they say is their final and probably biggest counter-terror offensives on Mumbai's five star Taj Mahal Hotel to flush out the two or three remaining terrorists holed up inside.

Media, particularly television reports said that as the offensive was launched five large explosions were heard from inside the hotel's heritage building early on Saturday followed by intense gunfire between NSG commandos and the terrorists.

The first explosion was heard at around 3:40 a.m., and within 30 minutes four more large explosions were heard from the same area.

"They (terrorists) are changing their positions. We have to also, on the spot, try and change our tactics, strategies," said NSG Director General J K Dutt when he was asked about the latest on the ongoing siege.

"From the intensity of the firing and different area they have occupied, I would say there would be two or three of them," he said, adding that the final picture would emerge after the operation is over and all rooms are checked.

"Our information is that they have been hit," he said, but refused to divulge further details.

The final assault began at 1.30 a.m. Reports said that there was heavy firing and explosions inside the popular Japanese restaurant Wasabi late on Friday night.

There is still confusion over the total number of militants inside the hotel, and the army said that the NSG is in contact with one terrorist in the old wing of Taj. There is a report of one injured militant.

Earlier on Friday night, Nariman House was cleared by the NSG, which set off huge explosions to ensure no terrorist escaped. The entire building was combed to ensure that it was safe for entry.

Five hostages and two terrorists were found dead inside the building. They included a Jewish rabbi and his wife, whose infant son was whisked to safety by its nanny the day before.

The NSG commandos were cheered as they came out by thousands of people who had gathered outside the building. The Rapid Action Force had to baton charge the crowd to keep it under control, and allow seven hostages to be taken out of the building.

Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Home, Sriprakash Jaiswal has said that the death toll from the serial strikes in Mumbai could cross the 200 mark.

"Once the bodies are collected, the number of deaths might go up to 200," said Jaiswal, adding that the operation could have been completed much earlier if saving the hostages taken by the terrorists not been a consideration.

"Our efforts were to ensure that casualties were minimum," he said.

ANI

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