NEW DELHI/MUMBAI – In one of the most violent terror attacks on Indian soil, Mumbai came under an unprecedented night attack as terrorists used heavy machine guns, including AK-47s, and grenades to strike at the city’s most high-profile targets — the hyper-busy CST (formerly VT) rail terminus; the landmark Taj Hotel at the Gateway and the luxury Oberoi Trident at Nariman Point; the domestic airport at Santa Cruz; the Cama and GT hospitals near CST; the Metro Adlabs multiplex and Mazgaon Dockyard — killing at least 101 and sending hundreds of injured to hospital, according to reports received late Thursday night.
“At least six foreigners have been killed and the death figure has gone up to 101 now,” Ramesh Tayde, a senior police officer told from Mumbai’s control room.
An unspecified number of foreigners including Americans, Israelis and Canadians are also believed to be among those trapped in the two hotels and in Nariman House, a residential complex with an old Jewish prayer hall, where also a hostage situation prevailed.
The attacks have taken a heavy 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.
The attacks appeared to be aimed at getting international attention as the terrorists took upto 40 British nationals and other foreigners hostage. The chairman of Hindustan Unilever Harish Manwani and CEO of the company Nitin Paranjpe were among the guests trapped at the Oberoi. All the internal board members of the multinational giant were reported to be holed up in the Oberoi hotel.
Two gunmen were reported holed up inside the Oberoi Hotel. Fresh firing has been reported at Oberoi and Army has entered the hotel to flush out the terrorists, officials said.
An unknown outfit, Deccan Mujahideen, has sent an email to news organizations claiming that it carried out the Mumbai attacks.
The Army and Navy in Mumbai were put on alert. 65 Army commandos and 200 NSG 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 said that some of the terrorists came in by sea. A boat laden with explosives was recovered later at night off the Gateway of India.
Gunshots and explosions have been heard from inside the old building of Taj, according to sources.
A little earlier, Maharashtra police chief A N Roy said all hostages at Taj hotel here have been rescued, but there could be some still trapped at Trident hotel and Nariman House where operations were on to flush out terrorists, said today, ruling out any negotiations with the ultras.
All people trapped in Taj Hotel in Mumbai rescued. No hostage-like situation there right now, said Director General of Police (DGP) A N Roy. “There are still guests in the rooms, but we won’t be able to give you a number,” he said.
More bodies have been found inside the hotel, reports suggest.
Four suicide bombers have reportedly been killed in the Taj hotel.
Giving details of the terror attacks which began last night, Roy said terrorists struck in quick succession and in all there was shooting in 12 places.
Well after midnight, sources said two of the terrorists were shot and wounded at Girgaum in south Mumbai. The two were driving in a commandeered silver-coloured Skoda car. Earlier, these men had sprayed bullets from a police Bolero, outside the Metro Adlabs multiplex.
The attacks occurred at the busiest places. Besides hotels and hospitals, terrorists struck at railway stations, Crawford Market, Wadi Bunder and on the Western Express Highway near the airport. Several of these places are within a one-km radius of the commissioner of police’s office.
“This is definitely a terrorist strike. Seven places have been attacked with automatic weapons and grenades. Terrorists are still holed up in three locations Taj and Oberoi hotels and GT Hospital. Encounters are on at all three places,” said Maharashtra DGP A N Roy.
St George’s Hospital and G T Hospital were said to have received 75 bodies and more than 250 injured people, additional municipal commissioner R A Rajeev said. Bombay Hospital got two bodies and 30 injured people were admitted there; Cooper Hospital, Vile Parle, got three dismembered bodies.
Three of the deaths occurred inside the Taj and one G T Hospital attendant died in a shootout inside the hospital. There were reports of people cowering under tables and chairs at both the Taj as well as G T Hospital.
Metro Junction resident Manoj Goel said: “My brother, Manish, died in the firing at Colaba’s Hamaal Galli.” Cops fired back at the men — probably from one of the Lashkar groups, dressed in black and with backpacks and SRPF, Crime Branch, ATS and teams of military commandos were summoned to the spot. Train services at CST were suspended and all roads leading to and from south Mumbai were blockaded.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh cut short his Kerala visit and was returning to Mumbai. He described the situation in Mumbai as “very serious”.
Deshmukh promised “stringent action” against the assailants but the mood across Mumbai was not so optimistic.
There were reports of firing around several landmark buildings in the Colaba-Nariman Point area, including the Taj hotel, Oberoi and other tourist attractions and pubs like Leopold’s. The top floor of Oberoi was said to be on fire amid reports of blasts in the area and blood-smeared bodies were being brought out of the Taj lobby.
Terrorists were said to be holed up at the Taj as well as G T Hospital and cops scampered to cordon off these places. A white flag was seen fluttering from an Oberoi Hotel window around 11.20 pm, where a blast was said to have occurred.
The blast on the Western Express Highway — near Centaur Hotel outside the airport — occurred in a taxi, deputy commissioner of police Nissar Tamboli said.
The firing and bombing started close to the Gateway of India. The gunbattle then moved on towards CST and raged on for over an hour from 10 pm, sending commuters running out of the station.
The assailants also fired into the crowd at CST and people on the trains and then ran out of the station themselves and into neighbouring buildings, including Cama Hospital, after being challenged by cops.
SRPF personnel then entered the iconic BMC building — just opposite CST — to take aim at the assailants, BMC commissioner Jairaj Phatak said. “We fear some of the assailants are still inside the station and we want to catch them if they come out,” a police official said.
Vikhroli police station senior inspector Habib Ansari was on his way to work from his Colaba home when he saw two armed men, with sophisticated weaponry, trying to run into bylanes near the Gateway of India.”I rushed back to Colaba and all policemen, including GRP and RPF personnel, were called up,” he added.
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