Sporadic Gunfire, Bomb Blasts as Mumbai Siege Continues
By Raymond Thibodeaux
28 November 2008
Clashes between Indian security forces and the remaining terrorists that launched a multi pronged assault on Mumbai continued into the night as authorities slowly regained control of the city . Raymond Thibodeaux has this report from Mumbai where explosions and gunfire rocked the city for a third day.
The southern tip of Mumbai, the heart of the city's tourist district, was turned into a battle zone as police tried to capture or kill the last of the terrorists.
At the historic Taj hotel in the southern tip of the city late Friday, the air was filled with the sound of grenades, sporadic machine-gun fire and helicopters hovering overhead. Indian special forces went room to room in an effort to end the three-day siege by militants who rampaged through the streets of Mumbai and took hostages in two posh Mumbai hotels and at a Jewish community center.
By late afternoon, Indian commandos had freed another six hostages, who were escorted to the back of the Taj into a waiting ambulance. None of them appeared to be injured, just shaken up and hungry after more than two days with almost no food.
Indian security forces so far have freed at least 200 hostages at the Taj. It is still unclear how many gunmen were involved in the assualt on the building.
Security officials have confirmed that several foreigners were killed and more than 20 injured. It is known that among the dead: three Germans, one Japanese, one Canadian and one Australian.
Firefighters and ambulances were rushed to the Taj late Friday as a fresh column of smoke could be seen rising from the luxury hotel's roof.
Four bystanders were hit by gunfire near the front of the Taj where many journalists have gathered to cover the siege. One of those injured was a journalist for the French Press Agency.
Elsewhere in the city, loud blasts and sporadic gunfire erupted at the Nariman House as Indian security forces worked to end the hostage standoff at a Jewish outreach center. A security official told Indian television that commandoes found bodies of what are believed to be terrorists and hostages in the center.
With Mumbai as the financial gateway to India, many of the hostages that had been held at the luxury hotels were in India on business.
As the siege began, many of their companies apparently called in crisis consultants like Sanjay Vaswani to help the hostages through their ordeal and upon their eventual release. He declined to give the name of the company that had called him in.
"The eight people we were in charge of were glad to be out. It showed in their faces they were tired," he said.
So far, it is unclear exactly how many people have been killed since the coordinated attacks began but authorities said the number is believed to be at least 140 and could go higher once security forces are able to slowly go through the devastated buildings where the fighting took place.
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