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Commandos clear Oberoi; hotel death toll 30

Reuters
Nov 28, 2008 at 04:32pm IST

Mumbai: Commandos took control of Mumbai's Trident-Oberoi Hotel on Friday, but battles raged on with terrorists 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 National Security Guard, Jyoti Krishan Dutt, said in Mumbai.

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"Oberoi-Trident have been evacuated, we have killed two terrorists."

FREE AT LAST: Guests trapped by terrorists at the Oberoi were evacuated room by room. (Photo: Reuters)

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 125 people.

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"Preliminary evidence, prima facie evidence, indicates elements with links to Pakistan are involved," External Affiars Minister Pranab Mukherjee told a news conference in New Delhi.

He urged Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorists.

But his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, called on India not to play politics over the attacks in Mumbai.

"Do not bring politics into this issue. This is a collective issue. We are facing a common enemy and we should join hands to defeat the enemy," the foreign minister said during a visit to Ajmer.

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 terrorists at the five-star Taj 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 terrorists, the commander, his face disguised by a black scarf and sunglasses, told a news conference.

Helpline: Taj Hotel (Mumbai, India): 91-22-66574322, 66574372, 1800 111 825; Oberoi (Trident) Hotel (New Delhi, India): 91-11-23890606; Ministry of External Affairs control room (New Delhi): 91-11-23015300, 23012113, 23013537. Fax number (New Delhi, India): 91-11-23018158.

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At least one terrorist was still thought to be holding two hostages in the Taj Mahal Hotel, an army commander said.

But General Officer Commanding, Southern Command, Indian Army, Lieutenant General N Thamburaj, said almost all guests and staff had been evacuated from the Taj and the operation would be wrapped up in a few hours.

"He is moving in two floors, there is a dance floor area where apparently he has cut off all the lights," he said.

"This morning while carrying out the operation we heard the sound of a lady and a gentleman, so it is possible that this terrorist has got two or more hostages with him."

At the Jewish centre, Indian commandos -- their faces covered by balaclavas -- rappeled from helicopters onto the roof to flush terrorists 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.

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 per cent at 1510 HRS IST.

Helpline: Taj Hotel (Mumbai, India): 91-22-66574322, 66574372, 1800 111 825; Oberoi (Trident) Hotel (New Delhi, India): 91-11-23890606; Ministry of External Affairs control room (New Delhi): 91-11-23015300, 23012113, 23013537. Fax number (New Delhi, India): 91-11-23018158.

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday pinned blame for the attacks on terrorist groups based in India's neighbours, usually an allusion to Pakistan.

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 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.

At least three of the attackers taken into custody were members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba 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 (ISI).

Lashkar-e-Toiba has denied any role in the attacks. Pakistan, condemning the assault, promised full cooperation.

Helpline: Taj Hotel (Mumbai, India): 91-22-66574322, 66574372, 1800 111 825; Oberoi (Trident) Hotel (New Delhi, India): 91-11-23890606; Ministry of External Affairs control room (New Delhi): 91-11-23015300, 23012113, 23013537. Fax number (New Delhi, India): 91-11-23018158.

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