Mumbai: Security forces are still engaged in gunfights with terrorists at luxury hotels Taj Intercontinental and Trident after armed gunmen went on a rampage in Mumbai on Wednesday evening.
Six blasts were heard at Taj and one at Trident (formerly Oberoi). Fire was still raging in the old wing of the Taj hotel several hours after it was rocked by five to six blasts and enormous clouds of black smoke rose from the century-old edifice on Mumbai's waterfront.
"The operation (by security forces) is still going on," said state Chief Minister Vilasrao Desmukh. Army and naval commandos and Rapid Action force personnel joined in the operations to rescue those stranded in the two hotels. Five columns of Army and 200 National Security Guard commandoes have been rushed. An Army commando was injured in shoot-out at Taj.
The attack on the 22-storey Taj hotel by the Arabian Sea was one among the 10 daring strikes across various locations in south Mumbai.
Terrorists are reportedly holed up inside in the hotel and several people including foreigners are said to be held hostage. Several tourists were also seen escaping the hotel and several others were reportedly ushered out.
Coordinated attacks sweeping through India's financial capital have left at least 78 dead and scores injured.
Gunmen targeted luxury hotels and tourist landmarks, seizing hostages in violence that left the head of Mumbai's Anti-Terror Squad dead.
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Earlier in the night, terrorists opened fire at police and paramilitary forces outside the Taj Hotel between 2215 hrs IST and 2230 hrs IST, police officials said.
The officials, who refused to speak on record, said the terrorists fired indiscriminately near the five-star hotel where around 2,000 guests and staff were stranded.
The body of a foreign woman guest was recovered from the Hotel and two terrorists were holed up inside the building, a police official said.
At least 90 per cent portion of the building was plunged into darkness as authorities cut off power in a precautionary measure.
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MPs, FOREIGN DIGNITARIES AMONG TAJ CAPTIVE
Member of Parliament, Krishna Das, who was among those held up, said they had been advised not to move out of the hall till the police clears the place of terrorists.
He was having dinner with some friends in a restaurant of the hotel when he heard gunshots. The guests ducked under the table from where they had fleeting glimpse of terrorists who were firing indiscriminately.
At least 10 top business executives are also stuck on another floor of the hotel.
Conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sajjad Karim, who was one of two MEPs caught up in the terror attacks in Mumbai, reportedly escaped from the Taj Hotel but his whereabouts are not known.
The other MEP involved in the attacks was Erika Mann, a German Socialist. Karim and Mann were part of a delegation of European parliamentarians from the trade committee staying in the Mumbai hotel for meetings ahead of an EU/India summit.
Thirty-eight-year-old Karim spoke to Sky News of his ordeal and attempts to hide from the assassins in the basement of the hotel until his mobile phone battery ran out.
Mann was reportedly hiding in the hotel's kitchensfrom where she told a concerned colleague who called her on her mobile: "It is too dangerous to talk."
Speaking to Sky News by mobile phone, Karim said that he and others had fled from machine-gun fire and had no idea why the hotel was targeted.
"I was in the lobby of the hotel when gunmen came in and people started running. There were about 25 or 30 of us. A gunman just stood there spraying bullets around, right next to me.
"I managed to turn away and I ran into the hotel kitchen and then we were shunted into a restaurant in the basement. We are now in the dark in this room and we have barricaded all the doors. It's really bad."
Karim told the television channel: "There was a lot of commotion in the main lobby, and then another gunman came right in front of us and started shooting. I saw a number of people go down, but I was fortunate enough to get away."