Statesman News Service

MUMBAI, Nov. 26: At least 80 people, including at least one foreign tourist, were killed and some 200 injured as terrorists struck in yet another series of planned and synchronised attacks in the heart of India's financial capital around midnight Wednesday.

Terrorists sprayed bullets from automatic weapons and hurled hand grenades at multiple near-simultaneous strikes at over a dozen spots across the metropolis, including at the five-star Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, Victoria Terminus, Vile Parle, Santa Cruz, Worli and Leopold Cafe in Colaba. 



Till well past midnight, terrorists holed up in the Taj and Oberoi hotels exchanged fire with security forces. Reports said the terrorists holed up at both hotels have taken several guests including some American and Western nationals hostage and have gathered them on one floor.

Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, additional police commissioner Ashok Kamte and Mumbai Police “encounter specialist” Vijay Salaskar died while taking on the terrorists.

A little known outfit ~ “Deccan Mujahideen” ~ claimed reponsibility for the attacks.

An NSG team has been rushed to Mumbai from the Capital, and Army commando teams have entered the Oberoi hotel. At least two terrorists are reported to be holed up at the Oberoi.

The Navy, police and security teams were also trying to flush out an unknown number of terrorists at the Taj Mahal hotel.

While five blasts were reported from the Taj Mahal hotel, another took place at the Oberoi. The lobby of the latter and the roof of the former were on fire.
Karkare (54), who was probing the Malegaon blast case, was shot when leading the operation at the Taj. He was hit by three bullets in his chest. Kamte, a 1989 batch IPS officer, was killed while fighting terrorists at Metro Cinema along with Salaskar.

Three MPs and 200 people were stranded in the Taj Mahal hotel. The body of a foreign woman guest has been recovered from the hotel. The terrorists were reportedly hurling grenades and firing from the hotel’s roof.

Two terrorists were killed in a shootout near Chowpatty beach, hours after the initial attacks.



Several suspected terrorists have also been arrested, police said.
The terror strikes began at the Cafe Leopold in Colaba area about 9.30 p.m. At 10.33 p.m. a couple of terrorists entered the passenger hall at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly known as the Victoria Terminus, armed with AK-47 rifles and grenades, and opened fire and threw grenades, Mumbai General Railway Police Commissioner Mr AK Sharma said.

At least 10 people died in the station premises, police said
Three persons were killed in a bomb explosion in a taxi on Mazgaon Dockyard Road and an equal number were gunned down at Taj Mahal Hotel.
Gunmen also fired indiscriminately at Colaba's posh Café Leopold, popular with foreign tourists, where it all started. 

Random firing also took place at the Ramada Hotel at Juhu, at Nariman Point, and at Cama Hospital in south Mumbai. A blast was reported in a taxi under a flyover in suburban Vile Parle. A petrol pump was blown up in south Mumbai, the epicentre of the attacks.

Firing also took place near Metro cinema, barely a kilometre away from CST. An eyewitness said the attackers hijacked a police vehicle after opening fire at two policemen in the vehicle.

Reports said the terrorists sprayed gunfire from inside vans, and from atop trees and the roofs of buildings. 

Eyewitnesses said some people suspected to be terrorists entered the CST building from outside the reservation counter and opened fire indiscriminately.
Two explosions also went off outside CST and eyewitnesses reported they heard gunshots outside the railway station building. A police officer said he saw two people armed with automatic weapons at CST.

“They opened indiscriminate fire and fled inside. They are reported to be holed up between platform seven and eight,” he said.

Police evacuated the CST station completely and halted all incoming trains as terrorists were sporadically firing from inside the grand old Victorian terminal of Central Railway. Here a grenade was lobbed at the police in a bid to deter them from entering the station premises. Some policemen were reported injured.

Two armed terrorists reportedly reached the nearest GT Hospital near CST station to prevent entry of the wounded victims of their attack. The hospital has been cordoned by security forces.

Huge confusion prevailed as initial reports ascribed the firing to gang war but the picture soon became clear given the professional vehemence of the attacks.
Far from south Mumbai, a well-to-do suburb of Vile Parle also reported a car bomb blast which killed at least five people. Reports of car blasts were reported from Mazgaon and neighbouring localities. Firing was also reported from the north Mumbai locality of Borivali and near the Maharashtra state Assembly building.

Sixty bodies and over 200 persons injured were brought at St George's Hospital, hospital sources said. Seven bodies were brought to GT hospital while two bodies were brought to Cooper hospital. Four bodies were brought to Mumbai hospital.

Police commissioner Mr Hasan Gafoor has asked Mumbai citizens to “stay inside wherever they are” and not to venture out as the entire city and suburbs along with rest of the state has been put on the highest ever alert sounded.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh assured the Maharashtra government of all assistance. The Opposition leader, Mr LK Advani, spoke to the PM who confirmed the terror strikes. The Centre decided to immediately dispatch National Security Guard commandos to supplement the efforts being made by local police and the CRPF.

Maharashtra chief minister Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh,  who cancelled his Kerala trip and returned to Mumbai,  strongly condemned the terror attacks and said stringent action will be taken against culprits involved in the incidents. He asked the people to stay indoors for their own safety and maintain calm.
A nationwide alert was sounded and all airports in the country put on high-security surveillance following the attacks that came less than a month after over 50 people died in serial terror bombings in Assam. All 5-star hotels in Delhi were put on alert.

Source: Statesman News Service