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Taj Mahal hotel freed, three-day Mumbai siege over

RIA Novosti

29/11/2008 11:50 NEW DELHI, November 29 (RIA Novosti) - Indian commandos killed the last terrorists holed up in the landmark Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai on Saturday, the third day of battles with militants across India's commercial capital.

Preliminary death toll estimates vary from at least 155 to 195, the vast majority being Indian nationals, officials said adding the toll could rise considerably. About 400 people were reported injured.

The bodies of three militants, Kalashnikov assault rifles, scores of grenades and other ammunition were found in the luxury Taj hotel when the siege was over. Fierce gunfire and explosions were heard at the hotel earlier this morning.

Nearby Trident-Oberoi hotel and Jewish center were freed on Friday.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said citing evidence that Pakistan-linked "elements" were responsible for the deadly attacks. And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the use of neighboring states' territory for launching attacks on India "will not be tolerated."

India has in the past frequently accused arch-rival Pakistan of backing Islamic militants active in India.

Pakistan asked India not to play politics over the issue and cooperate as terrorism was the two countries' common enemy.

One of the arrested militants was a Pakistani citizen. He was reported to have said that some of the militants had come ashore on small speedboats, and that they had earlier hijacked a fish boat near India's Gujarat state bordering on Pakistan. The boat and the bodies of the boat crew were later found by the Indian military near Mumbai.

The head of Pakistan's military intelligence agency, Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was to travel to India to discuss the situation with Indian colleagues, but will now send his representative instead, media reports say.

Indian authorities said 18 foreigners were among the dead, including Germans, Americans, one Australian, a Briton, one Canadian, two French, an Israeli, an Italian, a Japanese, a Singaporean and a Thai.

India's security forces lost 15 officers, including the chief of Mumbai Police Antiterrorism Squad, Hemant Karkare, and at least two commandos.

The battles began late on Wednesday when gunmen armed with automatic weapons and grenades opened fire on crowds at a railway station, the two hotels, the Jewish centre, a hospital and a cafe frequented by foreigners.



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