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Indian commandos have hotel 'under control' after 40-hour siege

RIA Novosti

28/11/2008 14:04 MOSCOW, November 28 (RIA Novosti) - Indian special forces have wrested control of a hotel in central Mumbai from terrorists who had held scores of guests hostage for around 40 hours, city officials said on Friday.

While TV crews filmed foreign guests leaving the Oberoi-Trident hotel under police escort, standoffs continued at another luxury hotel, the Taj Mahal, and a Jewish center.

The total death toll from a series of attacks that began on Wednesday evening is now over 130.

After arriving by boat at a Mumbai port on Wednesday evening, a group of apparently highly trained militants spread out through the center of India's financial capital, gunning down civilians at several sites including a restaurant and two hospitals, before seizing the luxury hotels and the Chabad Lubavitch Jewish center.

The total death toll includes at least six foreign nationals and 14 police officers. Police said 24 more bodies had been found on Friday, but did not clarify whether these were in addition the previously reported 130.

A total of 93 guests were rescued from the Oberoi, after special forces carried out room-to-room searches, engaging in direct gun battles in the building.

JK Dutt, the National Security Guard chief, said the hotel is now "under our control," and that commandos "killed two terrorists."

"There was lots of firing, they also lobbed hand grenades. Some of them are unexploded, we are going to defuse them - you may hear some sound of explosions," he told reporters.

Officials said the gunmen appeared to have a good knowledge of the building's layout, and were skilled shooters.

A British guest at the Oberoi, describing scenes in the hotel after being released, told the BBC: "The lobby was carnage, blood and guts everywhere. It was very upsetting."

A previously unknown Islamist group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Hostages who escaped from the hotels described the militants as young men speaking Hindi or Urdu, and said they had attempted to round up all the British and American guests.

India's foreign minister has blamed the attack on Pakistan, in a statement likely to aggravate tensions between the two nuclear powers, which have in the past fought three wars.

"According to preliminary information, some elements in Pakistan are responsible," Pranab Mukherjee was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.



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