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Indian Forces Battle To Regain Control In Mumbai

Last updated at: 28.11.2008 17:34

Indian commandos are still battling to regain control of Mumbai, India's financial capital, two days after suspected Islamist militants struck a dozen crowded sites including a train station, a Jewish center, and two luxury hotels packed with foreign tourists.

The death toll currently stands at more than 140. Americans, Australians, Canadians, French, a Japanese, an Italian, a Briton, and a German number among the dead.

Television pictures have shown commandos dropping by rope from a helicopter on to the roof of a Jewish center in Mumbai as part of a rescue operation.

Israeli defense officials today said the operation to dislodge militants holding hostages, including Israelis, at the Jewish center was over. At least five Israeli hostages were killed at the site.

Search For Militants

In another development, security forces freed nearly 100 people at the Oberoi Trident hotel.

Commandos were still searching for militants and hostages in another hotel, the Taj Mahal.

Heavy explosions and gunfire continued for several hours at the Taj Mahal, the other hotel targeted in the attack, before security forces regained control of the building.

The head of one commando unit at the Taj Mahal, his face covered with a black scarf and sunglasses, described the attackers as "a very determined lot, remorseless."

The soldier, who would not reveal his identity to reporters, said he had seen scores of bodies scattered through the hotel.

Tourist Targets

The militants launched their well-coordinated attacks on the night of November 26, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake.

Scores of panic-stricken tourists and foreigners have fled the violence.

Celia Meirow, an Israeli woman who lives in Mumbai, chose to leave until calm returns to the city. She spoke to Reuters on November 28 after landing at Tel-Aviv's airport.

"They told us not to leave the house, to close the windows, and just for the next few days to stay inside. But we decided to leave the country anyway because there were rumors that terrorists whom they didn't catch are still walking around in the street, and that the riots from the other side are going to get a bit wilder in the next few days," Meirow said.

France has sent a plane to Mumbai to repatriate Europeans caught up in the attacks. The French Foreign Ministry says Spain and Germany have asked that the flight also bring back their nationals.

A previously unknown Islamic militant group, the Deccan Mujahideen, has claimed responsibility for the carnage -- the latest in a series of terror attacks across Indian cities.

Speaking to Indian television by telephone from the Trident/Oberoi Hotel on November 27, a militant demanded all Islamist militants be freed from Indian jails.

Indian officials have been quick to point their finger at Pakistan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the militants had come from "outside" India -- a phrase sometimes used by Indian officials to refer to extremists from neighboring rival Pakistan.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters that "some elements in Pakistan are responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks."

Pakistan's defense minister, Ahmed Mukhtar, has categorically denied his country's involvement.


Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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