Gunbattle with terrorists continues 22 hours later, fresh blasts (Second Lead)

November 27th, 2008 - 10:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 27 (IANS) Intermittent sounds of gunfire and explosions continued to break the stillness around two luxury hotels and a multi-storey building as security forces engaged in a fierce gunbattle with hiding terrorists, nearly 22 hours after terror struck prime locations in the city, leaving at least 101 dead. So far seven terrorists have been killed, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said.The situation around the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, the Oberoi Trident Hotel and the Nariman Bhavan at Nariman Point - the three places where the battle with terrorists is raging - continued to be tension-filled Thursday evening.

A loud explosion broke out at the Oberoi Trident and flames leapt out of the hotel windows in the evening. There was also a fresh fire at the Taj Hotel, in another section.

Chief Minister Deshmukh told mediapersons that so far seven terrorists had been eliminated in gunbattles with the security forces, as three more grenade explosions rocked the Taj Hotel.

The terrorists struck a total of 13 places in different parts of the city and suburbs, killing at least 101 people and injuring another 288, Deshmukh asserted.

The chief minister said six foreign nationals were killed and seven others have been injured in the terror attacks.

According to Deshmukh, there have been “no negotiations” with the terrorists. He said the operations would continue through the night and even till Friday morning if the situation so warranted.

He said that 800 army personnel, two units of the navy, 200 personnel of the crack National Security Guards (NSG) are involved in the operation to flush out, kill or capture the terrorists.

Extra teams of doctors have been deployed to treat victims at various hospitals. Arrangements have also been made in nearby hotels to provide alternative accommodation to the guests staying in the two hotels.

An eyewitness said that terrorists lobbed a grenade at approaching security forces as they surrounded Nariman Bhavan building and began attempts to storm it. At least six terrorists are believed to be hiding inside Nariman Bhavan, just behind the Oberoi Trident Hotel.

The crisis of hostages at the Taj Hotel ended by late afternoon, but security forces continued their operation to wrest control of the premises, even at the Oberoi Trident, nearly 22 hours after the first attacks.

The combined security operation, which includes the army, navy, National Security Guards, Anti-Terrorism Squad and police, at the Oberoi is expected to be intensified as the personnel carry out combing operations.

While south Mumbai, where most of the attacks took place, remained practically deserted, a few offices which chose to open in the suburban business hubs closed by 4 p.m. and people returned home.

Around 1 a.m. this morning following an SOS by the state government, the Indian Navy sent a team of marine commandos to the Taj and Oberoi hotels.

A defence spokesman said they managed to enter the Taj around 2.45 a.m. and started efforts to evacuate the occupants. However, they faced stiff resistance from the heavily armed terrorists who were well entrenched inside.

In the cross-firing in the night-long operations which still continues, two commandos were injured. The combing operations led to the recovery of a rucksack filled with a cache of arms and explosives.

These included plastic explosives, 8-9 loaded AK-47 magazines, large quantities of ammunition, hand grenades, detonators, batteries, wristwatches for IEDs, foreign currencies, fake credit cards, cash and dry fruits carried by the terrorists.

Navy ships and aircraft have been deployed to sanitize the Arabian Sea areas off the coast of Mumbai and investigate the movements of suspicious sea vessels and crafts with all security measures placed in high states of readiness.

The defence spokesman added that a suspicious looking vessel, M.V. Alpha, carrying general cargo was chased by a naval frigate and a fast attack craft. It was also contacted on radio and ordered to stop. It was finally intercepted and investigated at sea around 12.15 Thursday afternoon.

Naval personnel engaged in checking the antecedents and documents of the ship and her crew, said later that everything was in order. The vessel, registered in Panama, arrived Mumbai nine days ago from Karachi and sailed out of Mumbai Wednesday.

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