Mumbai: At least 80 people were killed in a series of attacks apparently aimed at tourists in Mumbai on Wednesday night, with television channels saying Westerners were being held hostage at two five-star hotels.
At least 250 people have been wounded, police said.
There was also an attack on the Cafe Leopold, perhaps the most famous restaurant and hang-out for tourists in the city, and at hospitals and railway stations.
“I guess they were after foreigners, because they were asking for British or American passports,” said Rakesh Patel, a British witness who lives in Hong Kong and was staying at the Taj hotel on business. “They had bombs.”
“They came from the restaurant and took us up the stairs,” he told the NDTV news channel, smoke stains all over his face. “Young boys, maybe 20 years old, 25 years old. They had two guns.”
Police said targets included the luxury Taj and Oberoi hotels, with television stations showing the lobby of both hotels on fire and people being evacuated from the Oberoi with their hands on their heads.
Fresh explosions were heard in the early hours of Thursday.
“An encounter is going on at the two hotels, the situation is grave,” Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister told CNN-IBN TV.
“Our men are on the job.”
Maharashtra state police chief A.N. Roy said attackers had fired automatic weapons indiscriminately, and used grenades, adding that they were still holed up in some buildings.
“These are terrorist strikes in at least seven places,” he told the NDTV news channel.
“Unknown terrorists have gone with automatic weapons and opened fire indiscriminately. At a few places they even used grenades.
Some of the injured were evacuated from the Taj on the hotel’s golden luggage carts, while waiters in black and white formal wear and chefs were seen leaving the Oberoi.
“The lobby of the Taj hotel is on fire,” a police spokesman said. “We are trying to find out how many people are inside the hotel.”
Sourav Mishra, a Reuters reporter, was with friends at the Cafe Leopold when gumen opened fire around 9:30 pm. He has received injuries and is in St. George’s Hospital.
“I heard some gunshots around 9:30. I was with my friends. Something hit me. I ran away and fell on the road. Then somebody picked me up. I have injuries below my shoulder,” Mishra said from a hospital bed he was sharing with three other people.
The wreckage of a red scooter, the remains of shop awnings and broken glass were strewn across the street.
Armed police, rifles cocked at the hip, set up barricades around the explosion site, and local people were seen yelling at each other, angry that another terror attack had hit the city.
Vehicles and street vendors’ barrows were used to keep locals away, and speeding military four-wheel drives with horns blaring arrived at the bomb site.
There were other attacks elsewhere.
“They entered the passenger hub of a station and started firing,” A.K. Sharma, a Mumbai police government railway police commissioner told local television.
Sameeran Chakraborty, a Mumbai resident, told the NDTV news channel he heard a blast inside a car near the city airport.
“It was a big noise and one car was involved, definitely not more than that.”