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Commandos storm sites to free Mumbai hostages

Video by Richard TOMPSETT

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2008-11-28

An Indian commando chief says the Oberoi/Trident Hotel is "under our control" after an elite unit stormed the building to free hostages held inside. Meanwhile, troops have launched a separate helicopter rescue mission over a Mumbai Jewish centre.

'I never thought I'd make it' - Click here for a witness account of the Mumbai attacks


Also read: 'Citizen journalism' offers intimate view of Mumbai attacks


And watch our Top Story: 'Terror in Mumbai'


The chief of India's elite commando unit told reporters that Mumbai’s Oberoi/Trident Hotel was "under our control" after troops stormed the buildings and battled to free hostages inside. According to J.K. Dutt, his forces have killed two suspected terrorists who had participated in a series of bloody attacks on Mumbai landmark sites.

Twenty-four bodies were also found at the Oberoi/Trident Hotel during operations to regain control of the building, the police said. "The operation is complete. We have recovered 24 bodies today," Mumbai police chief Hassan Ghafoor told reporters outside the hotel. It was unclear whether the 24 bodies found inside the Oberoi/Trident were in addition to the 121 people already reported dead.

Earlier on Friday, Indian police said that 93 guests had been evacuated so far. Well-dressed guests, some dragging their suitcases, emerged from the hotel and were escorted into waiting buses and cars. One guest carried a baby.
Some 20 French nationals and an Air France crew trapped inside the hotel were among the group rescued, according to France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner.
Indian special forces also stormed a second hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace, in operations aimed at flushing out the heavy-armed gunmen who allegedly belonged to the Deccan Mujahideen, a previously unknown militant group.

More than 36 hours after heavily-armed gunmen seized Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace, a senior army officer, Lieutenant General S. Thamburaj, told reporters that “almost all of the guests had been evacuated” and that the operation would be wrapped up in a couple of hours. According to the AFP, however, it was not clear how many of the hotel's 565 rooms had been cleared.
At least one gunman with two possible hostages was holding off security personnel, said Thamburaj. "It is confirmed that there is contact with one terrorist as of now. He is moving between two floors," he said.  
"We heard a sound of a lady and a gentleman so it is possible that this terrorist has got two or more hostages with him," he told reporters outside the hotel.

Commandos storm Mumbai’s Nariman House
Shortly after dawn on Friday, black-clad commandos were seen abseiling from a helicopter into a Jewish centre in Nariman House, a business and residential complex, where gunmen were holed up after taking several hostages.  

According to a Reuters witness, commandos made at least three sorties and took up positions on the roof as troops fired inside the building to provide cover.

Late on Thursday, seven hostages were rescued from the complex, Indian security officials said. Friday morning, Reuters estimated that at least 10 Israelis were still held hostage inside the centre.
Foreigners targeted

On Wednesday evening, an estimated 25 militants armed with assault rifles and grenades -- at least some of whom arrived by sea -- had fanned out across Mumbai to attack sites known to be popular with tourists and businessmen.

They reportedly fired automatic weapons indiscriminately before settling inside the two hotels, where they appeared to target foreign nationals, reportedly Britons, Americans and Israelis. Two Australians, a Canadian, an Italian, a German, a Briton and a Japanese national were among those killed in the attacks, their governments said.

Date created : 2008-11-28