Mumbai: Army, Marine Commandos (MARCOS) and National Security Guard (NSG) commandos are involved in a fierce encounter with a group of terrorists inside the Taj and Oberoi hotels.
NSG Director General Jyoti Krishan Dutt said that the first, second and third floors of Oberoi Hotel have been sanitised while the operation is in the finals stages at the Taj.
MARCOS, the first team to enter the hotels, encountered stiff resistance from the terrorists who were heavily armed and well entrenched inside.
One commando was killed two others injured in the operation at Taj in which one rucksack full of plastic explosives, eight–nine loaded AK–47 magazines, large amounts of ammunition, hand grenades, detonators, batteries, wrist watches for IEDs, foreign currencies, fake credit cards, dry fruits and cash carried by the terrorists were recovered.
Major General RK Hooda General Officer Commanding of Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat, who is supervising the operations at the Taj Hotel, said, "NSG is here. They are carrying out a very deliberative operation. They are trained for it and are the best in the country. I have faith in them."
Hooda, the top most Army General in Maharashtra, said the operation clean-up at the Taj will start from the top floor and the personnel will carry out a room-to-room combing operation.
"There are 365 rooms to be searched. All rooms are closed. Every room has to be opened and searched thoroughly through their own drills," Hooda said.
Army is doing intervention drills by checking each rooms of the hotel. "In case the rooms are locked, we ask occupants to open it. And if they do not, Army will carry out intervention drill with due care. They (commandos) are trained for this," he said.
Hooda, however, did not disclose any time frame for the operation citing operational secrecy. "Do not speculate on timing. We can't quantify it."
Asked whether his troops had any confrontations with the holed up terrorists, he said, "No engagement has taken place."
But, he said his men had come across trapped hotel guests who have bolted themselves up in their rooms and efforts were being made to tell them it was safe to come out.
"We are doing the main operation. Army is taking care of operations from outside. Our commandos are safe and we hope to finish in 30 minutes from now," Dutt said about the operation at the Oberoi and also revealed that one NSG commando has been injured in the encounter.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh revealed that seven terrorists have been killed so far.
“NSG is moving ahead and positive signals are coming,” Deshmukh said.
Earlier, Dutt said that NSG commandos were clearing the hotel floor by floor.
"This is slightly complicated operation and our job is to ensure safety of people trapped inside. We are moving in floor by floor and ensuring that nobody is inside the rooms. Some rooms are locked from inside which we are asking them to vacate. There are dead bodies and injured on the floors. We are sending them to hospital," Dutt said.
He also declined to give a time frame for the operation.
"It's difficult to say how long we will take to take situation under control. But I'm positive that things are under control and no further damage is expected," he said.
"We can't move in fast in both the hotels because we are not sure that how many terrorist are hiding on the top floors. We don't want to be caught by their sniper bullets. We suspect that in both the hotels that there at least six terrorist but there is no confirmation on the exact figure," he added while ruling out any negotiations with terrorists.
Seven military aircraft have been kept on stand-by at the New Delhi airport to rush troops or material, if necessary. The planes include two IL-76 aircrafts, four AN-32 medium-lift transport aircraft and one Embraer for VIP movement.
In addition, two MI-8 helicopters have also been based at Mumbai and five more Army columns have been made available for deplopyment in Mumbai.
There are now 10 columns of the Army deployed on in Mumbai. Two bomb disposal teams and one mine detection team have also been sent to Mumbai.
Five units of MARCOS, too, are engaged in flushing out the terrorists.
MARCOS entered the Taj at about 0245 hrs IST on Thursday and commenced evacuation of occupants.
On the other hand Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister RR claimed that 10 to 12 terrorists are involved in the terror attack at the Taj Hotel.
Patil said he was not sure about the exact number of hostages in the hotel where commandos of NSG and Mumbai Police were involved in the operation.
He said they have not received any demands from militants and hoped that a breakthrough will be achieved soon. Patil said the operation was delicate in view of the safety of the hostages. He claimed police have got some leads but declined to elaborate.
He also announced Rs 5 lakh compensation to the kin of those killed in the terror attacks and Rs 50,000 to the seriously injured.
Maharashtra Director General of Police Anami Narayan Roy has said that there is no hostage-like situation at the Taj Hotel even as at least six terrorists are still holed up in the two hotels where commandos are trying to flush them out.
"There is no hostage-like situation at Taj Hotel. Guests are still there in hotel rooms. But the possibility of terrorists inside the hotel cannot be ruled out. Search operation is on right now along with NSG," Roy said.
The Ministry of External Affairs has set up a control room. The phone numbers are: 91-11-23015300, 23012113, 23013537.
The fax number is 91-11-23018158.
Taj helpline numbers: 022 - 66574322, 66574372, 1800111825. Oberoi helpline number: 011-23890606
Officials also confirmed that six dead bodies have been recovered from Taj Hotel till now.
Guests have been evacuated from Taj Hotel and police have removed all journalists outside the Gateway of India area outside the hotel.
The terrorists with arms and ammunition reached the Gateway of India on a boat and then divided themselves into various groups.
One group reached that Taj Hotel right opposite the Gateway of India while another group reached the famous Cafe Leopold in Colaba.
Another group proceeded towards Oberoi Trident Hotel at Nariman Point and another group reached the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Station.
The terrorists at Cafe Leopold start firing in Colaba area. The group at CST open fire and lob grenades.
A major gunbattle also breaks out near the Metro Cinema, neat the CST. Terrorists also hijacked a police van and a Skoda car and open fire indiscriminately, injuring several people.
At least 101 people have been killed and nearly 300 others injured in the terror attacks in 13 areas in the metropolis.
(With inputs from CNN-IBN Correspondents Yogita Limaye, Toral Varia, Rohit Chandavarkar, Raksha Shetty and George Koshy)