Three gunmen killed as India hotel siege ends

Thursday 27 November 2008 15:20

Indian commandos killed the last three gunmen at the landmark Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai this evening after suspected Muslim militants stormed targets across the city.

They were also sweeping the luxury Oberoi hotel in search of further hostages and trapped people.

Meanwhile, eight hostages were freed from the headquarters of a Jewish outreach group, according to an official of the Maharashtra state home department, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

It was unclear if any others remained inside the ultra-orthodox Chabad Lubavitch offices.

Gunfire and explosions could be heard well into the night from the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, two of the city's top gathering spots for the Mumbai elite, as well as at the Jewish group's centre.

Authorities said 119 people died and 300 were injured when the militants - armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and explosives - launched their attacks against 10 sites in the city yesterday. Eight of the terrorists were also killed.

While hostages trickled out of the hotels throughout the day, witnesses said many bodies remained inside and the siege showed few signs of ending quickly. Several bodies were carried out of the five-star Taj Mahal.

Dozens of people were also apparently still hiding in their rooms, terrified by occasional bursts of gunfire and explosions, as well as fires burning in parts of both hotels, and waiting for authorities to get them to safety.

After dusk today police brought hostages out of the Oberoi, one of the city's best-known five-star hotels.

One man who did not give his name told reporters he had seen many bodies inside, but refused to give more details, saying he had promised police not to discuss details of the rescue operation.

The Maharashtra state home ministry said 84 people had been freed from the Oberoi - 60 of them hostages - and dozens more were still trapped inside.

Police said they were going slowly to protect the captives.

A previously unknown Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for the carnage, the latest in a series of terror attacks over the past three years that have dented India's image as an industrious nation galloping toward prosperity.

Among the dead were at least one Australian, a Japanese and a British national, said Pradeep Indulkar, a senior government official of Maharashtra state. An Italian and a German were also killed, according to their foreign ministries.

Later there were conflicting reports about the besieged headquarters of the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch. A diplomat who has been monitoring the situation closely said no hostages were released. He spoke on the customary condition of anonymity, and contradicted an Indian official who said earlier that eight hostages from the centre were freed.

The diplomat said the eight people had probably been hiding in a nearby building.

See Google map of the attack sites

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