Indian forces have arrested three militants, including a Pakistani national, as they fought to regain control of Mumbai after a coordinated attack by militants that left more than 125 dead. PM Singh blamed a group based "outside the country."
And watch our Top Story: 'Terror in Mumbai'
Indian military commandos have arrested three militants, including a suspected Pakistani national, as they stormed the Taj Mahal luxury hotel in Mumbai, one of several landmark targets attacked by heavily-armed gunmen in India’s financial capital.
The report identified the Pakistani national as Ajmal Amir Kamal, a resident of Faridkot, Pakistan, and said the militants were members of Lashkar-E-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group best known for an assault on the Indian parliament in 2001.
Overall 125 people were killed and over 300 wounded in the highly-orchestrated attacks, one of the worst ever perpetrated in India. Security forces were still battling to regain control of another luxury hotel, the Trident-Oberoi, where some 200 people were believed to have been trapped or taken hostage. Security officials said 39 hostages have been rescued and evacuated from the building so far.
“The fighting continues at the Trident-Oberoi hotel. Hostages come staggering out of the building. This shows that there were people still inside the hotel when special forces launched their operations,” reports FRANCE 24’s Philippe Levasseur in Mumbai. “I heard the grenade explosions, shots coming from the hotel. The fighting seems particularly fierce.”
Meanwhile, seven other hostages have been rescued from a Mumbai residential-business complex, which also houses an Orthodox Jewish center. However, according to Israeli diplomats, eight people are still trapped in the Jewish center, among them a rabbi and his wife. An army operation was still underway on Friday morning.
The hostages were captured following a series of coordinated attacks in multiple key locations around the city late on Wednesday, including a hospital, a popular tourist restaurant and the Chhatrapi Shivaji train station. The militants fired automatic weapons indiscriminately at the crowd and threw grenades before settling in the Taj Mahal and the Trident-Oberoi hotels.
Blame game between India and Pakistan
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the nation on Thursday to condemn the attacks. "The well-planned and well-orchestrated attacks, probably with external linkages, were intended to create a sense of terror by choosing high-profile targets," he said. “I will take the strongest possible measures to ensure that there is no repetition of such terrorist acts.”
In the past, India has frequently held groups based in Pakistan responsible for terrorist attacks. Relations between the two arch enemies have improved in recent years and Pakistani leaders have condemned the latest attacks.
Speaking to journalists in Mumbai, Major General R.K. Hooda said the militants had come into the country from Pakistan. "They are from across the border and perhaps from Faridkot, Pakistan. They tried to pretend that they were from Hyderabad," he told reporters. But Pakistan denied his country had played any role in the attacks.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who arrived in India on Wednesday for a four-day visit, said he was shocked and horrified by the "barbaric" attacks in Mumbai.
The militants appeared to target foreign nationals, reportedly British, Americans and Israelis. An Australian, an Italian, a Briton and a Japanese national were among those killed in the attacks, their governments said.
Three police officers, including chief of ATS Hemant Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and additional commissioner Ashok Kamte succumbed to their injuries in Wednesday's terror attack.
“Some British people who escaped one of the hotels said that hostage-takers were dividing the guests according to nationality and taking the British and US citizens to other parts of the hotel,” said AFP correspondent for FRANCE 24 Phil Hazlewood regarding events in one of the hotels.
Deccan Mujahideen, a little-known militant group
Experts say they have never heard of the Deccan Mujahideen group which claimed responsibility for the attacks in e-mails sent to Indian media outlets. FRANCE 24 obtained a copy of the email in which the Islamic militant group vowed to continue the attacks until the “suffering of Muslims stopped.” The author of the email wrote in Urdu and Hindi.
On Thursday, one of the gunmen holed up in the Trident-Oberoi hotel told the India TV channel by phone that they wanted an end to the persecution of Indian Muslims and the release of all fellow Islamic militants detained in India.
"Muslims in India should not be persecuted. We love this as our country, but when our mothers and sisters were being killed, where was everybody?" he said from inside the hotel.
Date created : 2008-11-27