At least 119 people have been killed in a series of militant attacks in India's financial capital Mumbai, where gunmen armed with automatic weapons and grenades burst into luxury hotels and other important landmarks late Wednesday. Nearly 40 Indians and Westerners were being held hostage by the gunmen who continued to hold out amid high drama.
A picture of the suspected terrorists in Mumbai
Indian commandos fought gun battles Thursday with terrorists who continued to hold scores of hostages after sneaking into Mumbai from the sea and attacking landmark targets in the country's most brazen terror strike.
Masked gunmen carrying a huge quantity of arms and ammunition got off at the Gateway of India jetty, Mumbai's most identifiable landmark, and literally crossed the road to begin the night of mayhem. Carrying automatic weapons and hand grenades, the group attacked at least two luxury hotels, the city's largest train station, a movie theater and a hospital.
About 30-40 Indians and Westerners were in the custody of gunmen at the Oberoi Trident, one of the two five-star hotels the terrorists barged into Wednesday night and another six foreigners reportedly killed.
Police geared to ‘catch or kill’ terrorists
According to home ministry officials, it was a meticulously planned operation and the assailants were well armed and knew exactly which places to fan out in. Unlike previous terror attacks in cities across India this year that involved planting bombs, this time around gunmen have been at the forefront lobbing grenades and firing from their AK-47 assault weapons.
Maharashtra Director General of Police A.N. Roy said the security forces would kill or catch the terrorists. “We are now going very aggressively at these places. Wherever the terrorists are holed up we will either catch them alive or shoot them and that is the kind of operation we are leading at the moment at all the the three places. In fact a serious operation has been launched at the Nariman House, the Oberoi and the Taj,’’ said Roy.
Witnesses said the gunmen were looking for U.S. and British citizens after they barged into the hotels. The attackers called themselves the Deccan Mujahideen but authorities had not heard of such a group and didn't know if it was a genuine name.
Attackers not from within India?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai, killing over 100 people, were “based outside the country”. In an address to the nation, telecast live by state-run television, he said the attackers “had come with a determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of India”.
“We will go after these individuals and organizations and make sure that every perpetrator, organizer and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion, will pay a heavy price for this cowardly and horrific act,” said Singh in his address.
Among the dead were 14 men of the Mumbai Police who were the first to react. They included Hemant Karkare, head of Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad probing the bomb attacks in the state blamed on Hindu radicals. Outwitted, the police hurriedly sought help from the Indian Army.
Deepak Ghatak, who was holed up in a five star hotel till late Thursday amid loud explosions outside said the situation was far from over. ‘’I don’t want to say if the explosions were above or below me so that I don’t give out my position to the terrorists. But the explosion was extremely close to me. It just shook the whole room. And it took me almost one minute to get my wits together. But this is far from over. The situation is far from over,” said Ghatak.
The authorities ordered a holiday in Mumbai, but the otherwise bustling city remained on the edge and so was the rest of the country which witnessed the most audacious terror attack till date.