URGENT: Indian Commando Teams in Gunfight With Terrorists Holding Hostages Inside Mumbai Hotel

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URGENT: Indian Commando Teams in Gunfight With Terrorists Holding Hostages Inside Mumbai Hotel

Post by hisbeauty4ashes on Thu Nov 27, 2008 8:34 am

URGENT: Indian Commando Teams in Gunfight With Terrorists Holding Hostages Inside Mumbai Hotel
Thursday , November 27, 2008


UPDATED @ 9:35 a.m. EST — Indian officials say commandos are engaged in a fierce gunfight with terrorists holding an unknown number of hostages inside the luxury Oberoi-Trident hotel compl in Mumbai. Police have taken at least seven people out of the two-hotel complex, one of three buildings where gunmen are still holding hostages in country's financial capital.The roof of the Oberoi hotel was ablaze as a result of explosions inside the building.

Commandos reportedly were sweeping through the adjoining Trident hotel, checking to see if terrorists were using it as an escape route. A FOXNews.com correspondent traveling in the region reports that some of the terrorists may have fled Mumbai in stolen government Jeeps, and that police and military forces were setting up checkpoints and roadblocks around the city, according to local media reports.

The Associated Press reports one of the rescued hostages told reporters he had seen many bodies inside the hotel. He did not give his name. Indian TV, meanwhile, reports government officials fear the death toll at the Taj Mahal hotel could be high, with as many as 80-90 bodies inside. Some of the dead appear to have been killed by the gunmen, while others may have died in subsequent explosions and fires.

Among the bodies removed are those of Australian, Japanese and British nationals. A senior U.S. State Department official told FOX News that it could not yet confirm whether any Americans are among the casualties.Meanwhile, Indian police reportedly are negotiating with gunmen holding hostages at the ultra-orthodox Jewish Chabad Lubavitch Center.

There were unconfirmed reports that some of the hostages at the Oberoi hotel are Israeli nationals. Reuters reports a militant at the Lubavitch Center phoned an Indian TV station with an offer to talk with government officials about the release of hostages.

The caller reportedly also complained about abuses in Indian Kashmir. "Are you aware how many people have been killed in Kashmir?" the caller asked, speaking in Urdu. "Are you aware how your army has killed Muslims. Are you aware how many of them have been killed in Kashmir this week?"

A previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attacks in e-mails to several media outlets. While there was no way to verify that claim, security experts in India and U.S. speculated the group either is an Al Qaeda faction, or has the backing the Muslim terrorist group.

Dozens of people are still trapped or held captive, nearly a day after teams of heavily armed gunmen invaded two five star hotels, a popular restaurant, a crowded train station and a Jewish center, killing at least 104 people in coordinated attacks on India's commercial center.

Pradeep Indulkar, a senior official at the Maharashtra state Home Ministry said 101 people were killed and 314 injured. Officials said the bodies of nine militants were removed from the scene.

The gunmen appeared to be part of coordinated attacks on at least 10 sites that began around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday local time.Gunmen also seized the Mumbai headquarters of the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch. Indian commandos surrounded the building Thursday morning and witnesses said gunfire was heard from the building.

Click to view photos from the attack sites

Police loudspeakers declared a curfew around Mumbai's landmark Taj Mahal hotel, and black-clad commandos ran into the building as fresh gunshots rang out from the area, apparently the beginning of an assault on gunmen who had taken hostages in the hotel.

Soldiers outside the hotel said forces were moving slowly, from room to room, looking for gunmen and traps. At noon, two bodies covered with white cloth were wheeled out of the entrance and put in ambulances.

A series of explosions rocked the Taj Mahal just after midnight. Screams were heard and black smoke and flames billowed from the century-old edifice on Mumbai's waterfront. Firefighters sprayed water at the blaze and plucked people from balconies with extension ladders. By dawn, the fire was still burning.

At the nearby upscale Oberoi hotel, soldiers could be seen on the roof of neighboring buildings. A banner hung out of one window read "save us." No one could be seen inside the room from the road.

Officials at Bombay Hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a Japanese man had died there and nine Europeans had been admitted, three of them in critical condition with gunshots. All had come from the Taj Mahal, the officials said.

At least three top Indian police officers — including the chief of the anti-terror squad — were among those killed, said and A.N. Roy, a top police official.

The attackers specifically targeted Britons, Americans and Israelis at the hotels and restaurant, witnesses said. Alex Chamberlain, a British citizen who was dining at the Oberoi, told Sky News television that a gunman ushered 30 to 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and, speaking in Hindi or Urdu, ordered everyone to put up their hands.

Click to view photos from the attack sites

"They were talking about British and Americans specifically. There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: 'Where are you from?" and he said he's from Italy and they said 'fine' and they left him alone. And I thought: 'Fine, they're going to shoot me if they ask me anything — and thank God they didn't," he said.

Chamberlain said he managed to slip away as the patrons were forced to walk up stairs, but he thought much of the group was being held hostage.

The White House, meanwhile, said President Bush expressed condolences to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the attacks Press secretary Dana Perino said the president had the conversation with the Indian leader while spending Thanksgiving Day with his family at the Camp David mountaintop retreat in Maryland.

Perino said that Bush offered Singh "support and assistance" as he works to restore order in the populous and growing Southwest Asian nation. The president also wished Singh success as Indian officials investigate "these despicable acts" in Mumbai.

The motive for the onslaught was not immediately clear, but Mumbai has frequently been targeted in terrorist attacks blamed on Islamic extremists, including a series of bombings in July 2006 that killed 187 people.

Mumbai, on the western coast of India overlooking the Arabian Sea, is home to splendid Victorian architecture built during the British Raj and is one of the most populated cities in the world with some 18 million crammed into shantytowns, high rises and crumbling mansions. The Taj Mahal hotel, filled with Oriental carpets, Indian artifacts and alabaster ceilings, overlooks the fabled Gateway of India that commemorated the visit of King George V and Queen Mary.

A spokesman for the Lubavitch movement in New York, Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, said attackers "stormed the Chabad house" in Mumbai.

"It seems that the terrorists commandeered a police vehicle which allowed them easy access to the area of the Chabad house and threw a grenade at a gas pump nearby," he said.

Around 10:30 a.m., three people were led from the building and escorted away by police: a woman, a child and an Indian cook, said one witness, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said he did not know the status of occupants of the house, which serves as an educational center and a synagogue. Early Thursday, state Home Secretary Bipin Shrimali said four suspects had been killed in two incidents in Mumbai when they tried to flee in cars, and Roy said four more gunmen were killed at the Taj Mahal. State Home Minister R.R. Patil said nine more were arrested. They declined to provide any further details.

"We're going to catch them dead or alive," Patil told reporters. "An attack on Mumbai is an attack on the rest of the country." Indian authorities ordered schools and colleges and the Bombay Stock Exchange closed Thursday.

Blood smeared the grounds of the 19th century Chhatrapati Shivaji railroad station — a beautiful example of Victorian Gothic architecture — where attackers sprayed bullets into the crowded terminal.

Photos in the Mumbai Mirror newspaper showed a young gunman — dressed like a college student in cargo pants and a black T-shirt walking casually through the station, an assault rifle hanging from one hand and two knapsacks slung over a shoulder.

Nasim Inam, a witness said four of the attackers gunned down scores of commuters. "They just fired randomly at people and then ran away. In seconds, people fell to the ground."

Other gunmen attacked Leopold's restaurant, a landmark popular with foreigners, and the police headquarters in southern Mumbai, the area where most of the attacks took place. The restaurant was riddled with bullet holes and there was blood on the floor and shoes left by fleeing customers. Gunmen also attacked Cama and Albless Hospital and G.T. Hospital, though it was not immediately clear if anyone was killed.
Early Thursday, several European lawmakers were among those who barricaded themselves inside the Taj, a century-old seaside hotel
complex and one of the city's best-known destinations.

"I was in the main lobby and there was all of a sudden a lot of firing outside," said Sajjad Karim, part of a delegation of European lawmakers visiting Mumbai ahead of a European Union-India summit.

As he turned to get away, "all of a sudden another gunman appeared in front of us, carrying machine gun-type weapons. And he just started firing at us ... I just turned and ran in the opposite direction," he told The Associated Press over his mobile phone.

Hours later, Karim remained holed up in a hotel restaurant, unsure if it was safe to come out. Since May a militant group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen has taken credit for a string of blasts that killed more than 130 people.

The most recent was in September, when explosions struck a park and crowded shopping areas in the capital, New Delhi, killing 21 people and wounding about 100.


FOX FORUM: MUMBAI TERROR ATTACKS: A ‘Planned’ Operation Designed to Create Chaos

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