Gunfire still rages as seven terrorists dead, 13 at large (Lead)

November 27th, 2008 - 8:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 27 (IANS) Gunshots continued to ring through Mumbai’s iconic Taj hotel and the Oberoi Trident hotel as well as Nariman Bhavan Thursday evening as Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said anti-terrorist operations would continue through the night till morning if the situation so warranted. Deshmukh told reporters that 20-22 terrorists had struck Wednesday night. Of them, seven had been killed but 13 still remained holed up inside.

The chief minister confirmed that six foreign nationals had been killed and seven injured in the terror attack.

He said there had been “no negotiations” with the terrorists and assured that the operations will continue tonight or even till tomorrow morning if the situation so warranted.

Flames billowed out of a window at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel and gunfire could be heard from the Oberoi Trident as security forces prepared to launch what could well be a final assault on terrorists who had been holed up inside for more than 19 hours.

Fire broke out in a fourth floor room at the Taj as commandos confronted terrorists. More than nine gunshots were heard in a quick succession.

While the Taj has been cleared of all hostages, there are an unspecified number of people inside the Oberoi Trident and Nariman Bhavan on Nariman Point.

People could be seen waving from windows at the Oberoi. At least three more grenade explosions rocked the Taj hotel, while one grenade was lobbed at approaching security forces, witnesses said.

All the buildings are within a short distance of each other in prized south Mumbai.

While the crises of hostages and those stranded in the Taj ended by late afternoon, efforts by the security forces to wrest control of the premises from the terrorists continued.

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

So far, the terror attacks at nine locations in south Mumbai and one in the suburb of Vile Parle have claimed 101 lives, including 14 policemen, and injured nearly 285.

While south Mumbai remained practically deserted, a few offices which chose to open in the suburban business hubs closed by 4 p.m. and people returned the safe refuge of their homes.

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