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Commandos clear Trident, India lectures Pakistan

Commandos clear Trident, India lectures Pakistan
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First Published: Fri, Nov 28 2008. 03 53 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Nov 28 2008. 03 53 PM IST
Mumbai: Indian commandos took control of Mumbai’s Trident-Oberoi hotel on Friday, but battles raged on with militants who were still holed up in another luxury hotel and a Jewish centre with about half a dozen foreign hostages.
“The Oberoi Hotel and Trident are now under our control,” the chief of the elite National Security Guards, J K Dutt, told reporters in Mumbai. “Oberoi-Trident have been evacuated, we have killed two terrorists.”
India again pointed a finger at Pakistani-linked “elements” for Wednesday’s brazen, coordinated attacks in its financial capital, which police said killed at least 121 people.
“Preliminary evidence, prima facie evidence, indicates elements with links to Pakistan are involved,” Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told a news conference in New Delhi. He urged Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure that supports militants.
But his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, called on India not to play politics over the attacks in Mumbai.
The exchange raised the prospect of renewed tension between the nuclear-armed rivals, which have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947.
After a morning of shooting and explosions in Mumbai, the head of one commando unit flushing out militants at the five-star Taj Mahal hotel said he had seen 12 to 15 bodies in one room among a total of 50 in the hotel.
The commandos found money, ammunition and an identity card from Mauritius that they suspected belonged to the militants, the commander, his face disguised by a black scarf and sunglasses, told a news conference.
At least one militant was still thought to be holding two hostages in the luxury Taj Mahal Hotel, an army commander said.
But army Commander Lieutenant-General N. Thamburaj told reporters almost all guests and staff had been evacuated from the Taj and the operation would be wrapped up in a few hours.
At the Jewish centre, Indian commandos - their faces covered by balaclavas - rappeled from helicopters onto the roof to flush militants there. A Reuters witness said troops fired inside to provide cover as the commandos made at least three sorties.
The gunmen inside are thought to be holding an Israeli rabbi and around three other people hostage there, officials said.
At the Trident-Oberoi Hotel, well-dressed guests, some dragging their suitcases, trickled out and were escorted into waiting buses and cars after a 36-hour siege. One foreign member of the hotel staff left with a baby in his arms.
Travel Warning
Mumbai, a city of 18 million, is the nerve-centre of India’s growing economic might and home to the “Bollywood” film industry.
Australia upgraded its travel warning for India on Friday, telling its nationals to reconsider any plans to go there “because of the very high risk of terrorist activity”.
India’s main stock markets reopened on Friday after being closed on Thursday due to the attack, but the main share index was up around 0.75 percent at 0940 GMT.
An estimated 25 men armed with assault rifles and grenades - at least some of whom arrived by sea - had fanned out across Mumbai on Wednesday night to attack sites popular with tourists and businessmen, including the city’s top two luxury hotels.
Police said at least seven attackers were killed and nine suspects taken into custody. Twelve policemen were killed, including the chief of Mumbai’s anti-terrorist squad.
At least eight foreigners, including one Australian, a Briton, a Canadian, an Italian and a Japanese national, were killed. Scores of others had been trapped in the fighting or held hostage. Police said 279 people were wounded.
Pinning Blame
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pinned blame for the attacks on militant groups based in India’s neighbours, usually an allusion to Pakistan, raising prospects of renewed tension between the nuclear-armed rivals.
He warned of “a cost” if these nations did not take action to stop their territory being used to launch such attacks.
An estimated 25 men armed with assault rifles and grenades - at least some of whom arrived by sea - had fanned out across Mumbai on Wednesday night to attack sites popular with tourists and businessmen, including the city’s top two luxury hotels.
Police said at least seven of the attackers were killed and nine suspects had been taken into custody. They said 12 policemen were killed, including Hemant Karkare, chief of the police anti-terrorist squad in Mumbai.
At least six foreigners, including one Australian, a Briton, an Italian and a Japanese national, were killed. Scores of others were trapped in the fighting or were being held hostage.
Police said 279 people were wounded.
Pkistan group
The Hindu newspaper said at least three of the attackers taken into custody were members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, based in Pakistan.
The group made its name fighting Indian rule in disputed Kashmir, and has been closely linked in the past to the Pakistani military’s Inter Services Intelligence agency, the ISI.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has denied any role in the attacks.
“It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country,” Manmohan Singh said on Thursday.
“We will take up strongly with our neighbours that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them,” he said in a televised address.
Pakistan, condemning the assault, promised full cooperation.
The militants appeared to specifically target Britons, Americans and Israelis, witnesses said.
World leaders including US President-elect Barack Obama condemned the incident.
The attacks brought the biggest chaos to the city since serial bombings in 1993, blamed on the city’s Muslim crime syndicates, killed 260 people and injured hundreds.
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First Published: Fri, Nov 28 2008. 03 53 PM IST