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Indian commandos storm hotels in Mumbai

A major fire has broken out at the Oberoi Hotel. While 400 hostages have been evacuated from the Taj since last night, the army has launched a final assault at Nariman House after NSG commandos failed to drive out the terrorists.

One terrorist, identified as Abu Ismail from Faridkot, Pakistan, was arrested at the Trident Oberoi by the National Security Guard (NSG) team and 31 hostages have been rescued, General Officer Command (GOC), Western Naval Command J.S. Bedi confirmed. He has told the Mumbai police that he has been trained by the Lashkar e Tayiba.

Elite Indian forces have launched a counter-terrorist operation to free hostages held by extremists at several locations in Mumbai. It follows a series of attacks in the city, which have so far killed more than 120 people and injured around 300 others.

Teams of gunmen attacked a train station, a hospital, cafes and two luxury hotels. Among the dead are 16 police officers and six foreigners.

The Russian Foreign Ministry says no Russian citizens were harmed in the attacks.

“According to our information, no Russian citizens were harmed in the terrorist attacks. The Russian Embassy to India and the Russian Consulate General in Mumbai are maintaining close interaction with the Indian authorities,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 

It’s reported that more than 100 hostages were being held in two luxury hotels in the city. Indian police say most have been freed from the Taj Mahal Hotel. Dozens of people, mostly westerners, were seen leaving.

The city map (AFP)
The city map (AFP)

The well-armed gunmen attacked Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, a hospital and several restaurants, including Cafe Leopold, the local landmark restaurant.

says “the terrorist attacks on city will be remembered as India’s 9/11.”

Mumbai has been regularly targeted by terrorists since March 1993. Muslim underworld figures tied to Pakistani militants allegedly carried out a series of bomb attacks, leading to riots an conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Among the targets in the 1993 attacks were the city’s stock exchange, trains, hotels and petrol stations. A total of 257 people were killed and more than 1,100, wounded.
 
A crime syndicate going by the name of D-Company was held responsible.

Almost two and a half years ago, on July 11, 2006, terrorists targeted Mumbai's suburban railway system. On that occasion, too, the attacks were rigorously co-ordinated, with seven bombs being detonated on seven different trains within 11 minutes. The death toll eventually reached 209, with more than 700 injured.

International reaction

The UK and US governments, as well as US President-elect, Barack Obama, have condemned the attacks. On behalf of the current US administration, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke out, while a statement was released on behalf of President Bush. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke for the UK.


The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has commented, saying that:“No cause or grievance can justify indiscriminate attacks against civilians,” he said.

Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has also expressed his condolences to the Indian Prime Minister, adding that: “Such terror attacks are a challenge to humankind.”

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is the latest to condemn the outrage.

Walid Phares



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