Taj operations to be wrapped up in hours: Indian Army (Lead)

November 28th, 2008 - 1:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 28 (IANS) Operations by the security forces to clear the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel of terrorists who had seized the building would be wrapped up in a “matter of hours”, a top army commander said Friday.”It’s just a matter of a few hours. We will be able to wrap up operations (at the Taj),” Lt. Gen. Noble Thamburaj, the general officer commanding-in-chief of the Southern Command, told reporters outside the hotel on the seafront opposite the Gateway of India monument here.

It is one of three buildings, including the Oberoi Trident hotel and Nariman House Jewish centre that was seized by terrorists Wednesday night in coordinated attacks at 10 spots in the city that have claimed at least 125 lives and injured 327.

Thamburaj is coordinating the Indian Army’s operations with the National Security Guard (NSG) and the Mumbai police.

“As of now, almost all guests and staff (of the new wing of the Taj) have been evacuated. Troops and the NSG (National Security Guard commandos) are now carrying out an operation against one terrorist (holed up in the heritage wing),” the officer said.

“He is moving in two floors. There is a dance floor, where he has cut off the lights and made the area dark,” Thamburaj said, adding that the terrorist was possibly holding two hostages.

“This morning, we heard the sound of a lady and a gentleman so it is possible there are two or more hostages. It is possible there is more than one terrorist.

“From the gunfire, one is confirmed but there could be two,” the officer added.

Thamburaj also said that a number of guests had locked themselves in their rooms in the heritage wing as a precautionary measure.

“A number of rooms are locked from the inside. It is possible that the guests have locked themselves in and are not opening the door even after we have identified ourselves.

“When the telephone system is rectified, we will send across a message to them,” Thamburaj added.

He also paid rich tributes to the “brave heroes of the NSG” who had suffered “some casualties but I am not in a position to tell whether these are fatal or non-fatal”.

Thamburaj also noted the “selfless and bold and courageous action of army soldiers and NSG commandos. Our officers led from the front”.

He also refused to lay down a timeline for concluding the operations at the Taj.

“The operations are deliberately slow. I have told the commandos not to rush and not be under pressure from the media and citizens. We don’t want to be in a hurry and suffer casualties,” Thamburaj maintained.

He also complimented the role of the media throughout the hostage crisis, saying it had “achieved a lot” by providing “up-to-date information to everyone”.

The NSG has also succeeded in sanitising the Oberoi-Trident Hotel at Nariman Point and is engaged in flushing out operations in the Nariman House in Colaba.

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