Mumbai: Commandos freed more than 200 hostages from the Trident hotel complex on Friday and were attempting to root out as many as six terrorists still in the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel.
As night fell, an operation to secure hostages held in a Jewish centre was still in its final stages, police officer Hassan Ghafoor said, although commandos emerged from the building with their rifles raised in an apparent gesture of victory.
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Attacks on two hotel complexes and several other locations in the country’s commercial centre late on Wednesday left 124 people, including 15 policemen, dead and 370 injured in 36 hours of fighting. Nine terrorists were killed and one, a Pakistani, was arrested, said R.R. Patil, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra.
“We are in the final stages of operations,” army Lieutenant General N. Thamburaj told reporters.
Thirty bodies were recovered from a hall in the Taj. Bodies and blood were everywhere in the hotel, navy commandos said.
Eight foreigners were among those killed in the coordinated shootings and explosions across India’s financial hub two days ago.
The targeting of Westerners marks a shift in tactics for Islamic militants in India as they strike the international links that have helped the country’s economy grow at 9% or more for each of the past three years.
“According to preliminary information, some elements in Pakistan are responsible for Mumbai terror attacks,” external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in Jodhpur. “Proof cannot be disclosed at this time,” he said, adding that Pakistan had assured New Delhi it would not allow its territory to be used for attacks against India.
Earlier on Friday, Pakistan’s defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar, in Islamabad, denied the involvement of his country: “I will say in very categoric terms that Pakistan is not involved in these gory incidents.”
The attacks, the worst in the country’s financial capital since train blasts in July 2006 that killed 187 people and injured more than 800, began with explosions and gunfire ringing out across the city.
On Friday, two large explosions were heard at the Taj hotel, where six hostages were freed. One National Security Guard (NSG) commando was killed at the hotel, where a fire broke out after a further explosion.
At the Trident complex, rescued guests, many clutching passports and bags, were loaded into buses and cars by authorities. Fifteen Air France staff members were freed from one of the hotels, the airline said.
The Trident complex was cleared of assailants and 24 bodies were recovered, an NSG officer said on television.Two terrorists were killed at the Trident, where guests were receiving first aid. Twenty-two foreign nationals were among those injured in the attacks, according to Mumbai police.
Commandos emerged from a besieged Jewish centre, the Nariman House, with rifles raised in an apparent sign of victory after a daylong siege that saw a team rappel from helicopters and a series of explosions and fire rock the building and blow gaping holes in the wall.
As many as four gunmen held six Israelis hostage at the centre, officials said. One commando died. All four terrorists were also killed, CNN-IBN channel said. In Jerusalem, the Israeli rescue service said five hostages and two gunmen were killed at the centre.
The building is home to the Chabad-Lubavitch Centre, a Brooklyn-based Hassidic group. A rabbi, his wife and several other people were being held hostage, Menachem Brod, a spokesman for Chabad, said in a telephone interview.