Israeli rabbi held hostage by Mumbai gunmen

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The Independent Online

An Israeli rabbi is being held hostage by gunmen in a Mumbai apartment building after a series of attacks in the city that have killed at least 101 people, police said today.

Indian commando Amit Tiwari told Reuters a woman and a child had been released, and one of the gunmen had been killed, but at least four armed men remained in the building.

The Israeli rescue service Zaka, an ultra-Orthodox organization, identified the hostage as Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg.

He and his wife, Rivka, operate a cafeteria and synagogue for the Chabad Lubavitch religious group, it said, adding that she and a two-year-old child had been released.

Zaka said Indian security had just informed the Israeli foreign ministry of plans to break into Chabad House, where unconfirmed reports say the rabbi has been wounded.

"The situation at the present moment is very unclear. We know there is a hostage situation at the Chabad centre and also in one of the hotels in town," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmore told Reuters Television.

"Israelis are probably involved but we have no verifiable information as to how many or what their situation is at the moment."

Gunfire was heard from the area, a Reuters reporter on the scene said, and a loud explosion in mid-afternoon.

Israel's Ynet Web site said other hostages, including the child's caregiver, were also released some time later but that the Holtzbergs were still being held.

Chabad Lubavitch said on its website that it was concerned about the welfare of Holtzberg and his wife.

"The Israeli Consulate was in touch with Holtzberg, but the line was cut in middle of the conversation," a report on the Chabad website said. "No further contact has since been established."

"It is not clear what the gunmen want," Tiwari said.

One Indian television channel said Israelis were also among those being held hostage at the Trident/Oberoi hotel, one of two luxury hotels stormed by suspected Islamist gunmen overnight.

The deputy chief minister of India's Maharashtra state said there could be between 100 and 200 guests and workers trapped in the Trident-Oberoi Hotel, with 10-12 militants also inside.

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