Gunfire crackled and explosions rocked south Mumbai Friday as Indian commandos launched their final assault against terrorists who continued their hold on the Taj and the Nariman House, nearly 48 hours after they began their bloody siege that has already killed 125 people. The Oberoi Trident hotel, officials said, was in their command.
Security forces have meanwhile cleared Nariman House, where some Israelis were held hostage
After battling terrorists for two days the elite National Security Guards cleared the Oberoi hotel of militants, killing two of them. At least 24 bodies were recovered from the premises.
Mumbai still on tenterhooks
A tense Mumbai remained on the edge as security forces gave a major push to end the long and bloody terror siege by militants and rescue the trapped people. At least eight foreigners have been killed and 22 injured in the terror attack.
The narrow lanes leading to the Nariman House looked nothing short of a war zone buzzing with heavily armed security personnel.
As Mumbai strove for normalcy with schools and offices opening, the posh southern part of the city resembled a war zone with some shell-shocked hostages being rescued, an unspecified number still trapped by terrorists and Indian commandos closing in to end the terror siege that began Wednesday night when heavily armed men targeted 10 sites in Mumbai.
‘Gunmen knew all entries and exits’
Lt. Gen. Noble Thamburaj, the general officer commanding-in-chief of the Southern Command who is coordinating the Indian Army's operations with the paramilitary NSG, marine commandos and the Mumbai police, explained why the operation had been taking so long. “Our operations had to be deliberate and slow because the life of hostages and innocent residents of the hotel was of great importance to us,” said Gen. Thamburaj.
Indian marine commandos, who battled terrorists at the Taj hotel, just across the road from the Gateway of India where terrorists had alighted from a boat to begin their mayhem, said the gunmen were remorseless and very well trained.
The fact that is was a meticulously planned operation was confirmed on Friday by a masked officer of the force who could not be named because of the secretiveness of their organisation.
“We did a room intervention which is the process of flushing out the terrorists. But like I said these people were very familiar with the layout of the hotels. They knew all entries and exits. Till 5.30 or 6 o’clock this morning there was a fire exchange between us,” the officer said.
The officer said he and his colleagues saw several bodies inside the hotel and also some guests seriously wounded.
Still more hostages and casualties at Nariman House
The drama at the Nariman House Jewish centre in Colaba was telecast live for millions of disbelieving viewers who watched commandos being lowered down on the roof of the five-storey building where an unspecified number of people remained hostage. About 100 commandos took positions on the roads around the building.
General Thamburaj said a few commandos were injured in the fierce combat, but declined to specify the number of casualties and deaths. “This kind of information being leaked out to terrorists will definitely affect his mental make-up,” he said.
As the terror attack continued for a third day, security forces realized that this surprise no-holds-barred attack was an entirely new phenomenon that they had to contend where terrorists were prepared to kill, and be killed.