Manhunt, firefight launched against terrorists after they kill 78 in Mumbai serial blastsNovember 27th, 2008 - 9:32 am ICT by ANI
Mumbai, Nov.27 (ANI): Maharashtra Police and Indian Army personnel launched a massive manhunt and a firefight early on Thursday morning against terrorists responsible for planned and synchronized serial bomb blasts across Mumbai late on Wednesday night that left at least 78 people killed, including a foreign tourist and a top counter-terror officer.
Police said that about 250 others were injured in the midnight attacks that took place in the heart of the countrys financial capital.
The terrorists were reported to be holding tourists and other guests hostage at the Taj Intercontinental and at the Trident, two five-star hotels located on the citys waterfront across the Arabian Sea and close to the Gateway of India.
Indian Army soldiers stormed the two besieged five-star hotels to nab the terrorists and to free hostages held captive there, officials said.
A team of Mumbai’’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) is already inside the Taj Intercontinental where the holed-up terrorists had hurled a grenade towards advancing army troopers, the police officials said. An exchange of fire is on between the police and the terrorists at the Taj and the Trident. Our people have surrounded them and the ATS team has arrived at the Taj hotel,” said Maharashtra Director-General of Police A.N. Roy.
Three top police officials, including Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, Additional Police Commissioner Ashok Kamte, Mumbai Police ”encounter specialist” Vijay Salaskar were killed in separate gun battles following the attacks, the officials said.
Karkare was heading investigations into several recent cases of terrorist attacks here. They were among the nine policemen killed in the firefight with the terrorists, police confirmed, adding that so far nine suspected terrorists have been caught and two killed in shootouts following the bomb attacks.
Among terror targets was the city’’s busiest railway station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly the Victoria Terminus that is a World Heritage site.
A nationwide alert has been sounded and all airports in the country have been put on high-security surveillance following the attacks.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh described the serial blasts and the ongoing encounter with terrorists at the two hotels in the city as the most audacious attack.
It is a very serious situation and gun battles are still on in at least three places,” said Deshmukh, adding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had called him and expressed concern over the incident.
He strongly condemned the terror strikes and asked people not to believe rumors.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Ghafoor said the attacks were suspected to be “coordinated terrorist acts”, and added that automatic weapons like AK-47 and AK-56 and semi-automatic rifles as well as grenades were used.
State Government spokesman Bhushan Gagarani confirmed the death of 78 people and injuries to 250 others, adding that some of them were in serious condition at various hospitals in the city.
Recalling the incident, the authorities said that apparently small groups of heavily armed terrorists sneaked into busy public places, mostly in south Mumbai, in the dead of the night with the intention of spreading panic in the crowded metropolis. They said that most of the places targeted were in upscale south Mumbai, a favourite destination of foreign tourists.
DGP Roy said at least seven or eight places were attacked.
Suspected terrorists also opened indiscriminate firing near the railway station, the headquarters of the Central Railway, which remains crowded almost throughout the day. As a precautionary measure, authorities suspended suburban and other railway services.
Two bomb blasts, one in Vile Parle, a residential suburb in north Mumbai, and another in Mazgaon, also injured an unspecified number of people, the police officials said.
Later, firing also took place near the Metro Cinema. Eyewitnesses said the attackers hijacked a police vehicle after opening fire at two policemen in the vehicle.
All roads linking south Mumbai with the rest of the metropolis have been barricaded. The Elite Rapid Action Force (RAF) has been pressed into action and the targeted locations have been cordoned off.
A crack team of 200 National Security Guards (NSG) has arrived in the city from New Delhi late in the night. (ANI)
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