Police said that gunmen were reported to be holding an unknown number of Western hostages in the exclusive Taj Palace hotel, which was among seven targets stormed by terrorists armed with guns and grenades. Teams of gunmen earlier stormed luxury hotels, tourist attractions and a crowded station in an attack that left a further 90 people wounded.
UPDATE....Terror attacks in Mumbai; 80 dead, over 900 injured, 27 Nov 2008, 0224 hrs IST, TIMES NEWS NETWORK & AGENCIES according to latest reports. ( Watch ) . Commandos were being rushed to Mumbai, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said. The Navy commandos too have been asked to assist the police. Special secretary M L Kumawat is in constant touch with the state police. 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.
The attacks have taken a tragic toll on the city's top police brass: The high-profile chief of the anti-terror squad Hemant Karkare was killed; Mumbai's additional commissioner of police (east) Ashok Kamte was gunned down outside the Metro; and celebrated encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar was also killed. ( Watch )
The gunmen also attacked the police headquarters in the south of the city, which is India's commercial capital and also known as Mumbai. Among the targets was the Oberoi hotel as well as the popular Leopold's restaurant. Witnesses said the terrorists were specifically targeting British and American visitors. Guests in the restaurant of the five-star Oberoi were challenged on their nationality as they were herded upstairs.
See my prior post, Monday, October 06, 2008, Terror emails tracked, 20 held for blasts, Mumbai Police solved the mystery of emails sent by Muslim Indian Mujahideen (IM) before Ahmedabad blasts !
"They told everybody to stop and put their hands up and asked if there were any British or Americans," said Alex Chamberlain, a British businessman. "My friend said to me, don't be a hero, don't say you are British. "I am sure that is what this is all about. They were talking about British and Americans specifically."
Security forces continued to fight gunbattles with the terrorists hours after the initial attacks. Gunfire was also reported at the Cama Hospital, suggesting that the terrorists were deliberately seeking to prevent the wounded from receiving medical care. But it was at the Taj Palace that local television reports suggested Western hostages were being held.
A British guest at the hotel said that he had managed to escape the terrorists after being among a dozen people herded together by two heavily armed men and taken up to the hotel's upper floors. "They were very young, like boys really, wearing jeans and T-shirts," he said. "They said they wanted anyone with British and American passports and then they took us up the stairs. I think they wanted to take us to the roof." He said that he had managed to escape when they reached the 18th floor.
As he was speaking to an Indian television station, there was a loud explosion from the roof of the hotel. Sajjad Karim, a Conservative MEP who was visiting the city, was also caught up in the attack but managed to flee and take shelter.
"I was in the lobby of the hotel when gunmen came in and people started running," he said. "There were about 25 or 30 of us. "Some of us split one way and some another. A gunman just stood there spraying bullets around, right next to me. I managed to turn away and I ran into the hotel kitchen and then we were shunted into a restaurant in the basement. We are now in the dark in this room and we've barricaded all the doors. It's really bad."
The Indian Mujahideen, a little known terrorist group thought to sympathise with al-Qaeda, has carried out a series of attacks in India in recent months. More than 200 people were killed in seven blasts on suburban trains and stations in July 2006 and another 46 died in two bombings near the historic Gateway of India - close to the hotels targeted in the latest attack.
See my prior post, Thursday, October 02, 2008, Muslim Mafia Don Amir Raza Khan Runs Indian Mujahideen (IM) From Pakistan And Funded Through Hawala Channels And Stolen Cars.
There were scenes of mayhem as staff used hotel linen and brass baggage carts to move the injured to hospital. Bullet holes pierced the elegant facades and blood smeared the furniture of the hotel lobbies. Gunmen also attacked the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly Victoria station. Some reports said the men carried heavy suitcases.
AN Roy, the police commissioner of Maharashtra state, said: "The terrorists have used automatic weapons and in some places grenades have been lobbed." A safety alert was issued to local government ministers and police advised all citizens to stay in doors.
There was a report that a fire had started in one hotel and two terrorists were barricaded in another. The first incidents, involving assault rifles and hand grenades, were recorded at the Gateway of India. The attacks continued for several hours.
Thousands of panicked residents, many who fled buildings and hotels where the firing was continuing were cowering wherever shelter was available. Witnesses accused armed police teams of random fire after they were unable to identify the location of the gunmen. After the battles gunmen were reported to have disappeared, melting into the crowds undetected.