28 Nov : Security forces closed in on Nariman House to flush out terrorists as three fresh explosions rocked the Jewish residential complex amid intense exchange of fire and operations entered the final stage to end the terror siege in luxury Oberoi hotel.
In dramatic scenes after day break, NSG commandos were air-dropped at the Nariman House in the midst of exchange of fire as army zeroed in on the building in which at least three terrorists are holed up.
Before commandos tightened their grip on Nariman House for the final assault, two explosions within a span of ten to 15 minutes slowed down their operation. A third explosion was heard at 4.47 am. "The operation to clean up the Nariman House is still going on," Director General of National Security Guard (NSG) J K Dutt told reporters just before choppers airdropped the commandos. "It is just a matter of time and it will end soon", he said.
Dutt said the operations at Taj were by and large over with just one injured terrorist still holed-up in the building.The forces continued to engage the two remaining terrorist in Oberoi, where no gun shots or explosions were heard since late on Thursday night as the security forces launched room-to-room searches.
Late in Thursday night, there was a major fire in the Trident (Oberoi) hotel where about 200 people have been trapped and terrorists exploded grenades that set the roof ablaze.
The other scene of action was at Nariman House, a Jewish residential complex, where some Israelis have been held hostage by some three-four terrorists.
The hand of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba is suspected in the worst terror attacks in the country but the outfit denied any involvement.While all the hostages in Taj were evacuated to safety, the situation in Trident worsened with the terrorists involved in a grim battle with security forces.
There were heavy casualties among the staff in both the hotels with Taj alone accounting for 17 of them. G-o-C Maharashtra R H Hooda said they had done a detailed search of the 395-room hotel but declined to give numbers of terrorists holed up or those trapped.
Among the dead were nine foreigners and 14 police personnel including ATS chief Hemant Karkare and four other senior officers. Security agencies have sought to blame LeT, one of whose activists was captured alive in Trident. He is said to be Abu Ismail hailing from Faridkot in Pakistan.
The terrorists numbering about 20-25 are believed to have landed on Mumbai shores after a mother vessel dropped them in three inflatable boats. Seven of them have been gunned down.The Indian navy claimed that they have spotted the mother vessel and giving it a hot chase.
Even as the combing operations were underway, one more explosion rocked Taj which has already suffered several grenade blasts setting several rooms ablaze.Taj general manager K S Kang lost his wife and two children in one of the fires set off by the terrorists.
Elite commandoes of the topline security forces from army, navy, NSG and Rapid Action Force were involved in the raging encounter with the heavily-armed terrorists in the two hotels.
As dusk fell, there was expectation that the forces would intensify their assault to overwhelm the terrorists who struck in ten places across the city. About 300 people were injured.
One of the army officials was quoted as saying that the terrorists spoke Punjabi and could be from Pakistan’s Punjab.State Home Minister R R Patil said authorities had "vital clues" about the attacks but gave no details.
The foreigners killed in the incidents included one each from Britain, Japan, Australia and Italy. There were unconfirmed reports about two US nationals being among those killed.
A number of people, including MPs Lalmani Prasad (BSP) and Jaisingh Gaekwad (BJP) were stuck at Taj hotel.As Wednesday’s night’s terror incidents spread a sense of unease in the metropolis, schools and colleges were ordered closed.
The Bombay Stock Exchange did not function on Thursday.
Suburban trains and city buses operated normally but without usual rush. Except for cancellation of three international flights, domestic air services to Mumbai were maintained.
Nine foreigners killed in terror attacks in Mumbai
At least nine foreigners, including a woman, were killed and 18 injured when heavily armed terrorists attacked two luxury hotels and other public places in Mumbai in one of the worst terror strikes in the country on Wednesday night.
The slain foreigners included a Briton, an Australian, a Japanese and an Italian. British High Commissioner Sir Richard Stagg said a UK national died in the attack on the Taj hotel, where seven of his compatriots were also injured.
"We have been checking in all hospitals and are making arrangements for the British nationals who are there in the city," he said, adding "we have also informed the family members."
According to residential medical officer of St George Hospital, Ulhal Vasave, seven bodies of foreign nationals were brought to the hospital on Wednesday night.
The body of one Japanese victim was brought to the Bombay hospital on Thursday morning.The slain foreigners who have been identified are Braid Gilbert Taylor (49), an Australian; British national Andrias Leveras (aged about 75) yrs); a Japanese businessman Hisashi Tsuda (38) and an Italian Antonio de Lorenzo.
Two males and one female – Michael Stert (73), Jeurgan Hetras Rudolph (68) and Stredder Daphne (50) – were also among the dead, but their nationalities were yet to be ascertained. Two more slain foreigners were yet to be identified.
Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome said among the dead was an Italian national, identifying him as Antonio de Lorenzo.
All Italians who were in hotels or other areas attacked in Mumbai have been contacted "except for one or two people," the country’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told a local TV channel.
"Some are locked up in their hotel rooms and the situation that they are describing outside is obviously frightening."
Japanese national Tsuda, who was working with Mtsui Marubeni Liquefied Gas Co, died at a hospital after being shot in the leg, stomach and chest at the Oberoi Trident hotel, the company’s Vice President Hajime Tamaki said in Tokyo.
Its another employee, 44, fell and suffered light injuries as he fled the scene, he said, without identifying the injured by name.
Among the 60 injured admitted to Bombay hospital, 11 foreigners were from different nationalities, Dr Ashish Tiwari of the hospital said.The injured foreigners are from Australia, USA, Norway, Spain, Canada and Singapore, he said.
Top cops go down fighting
Panic set in quickly all over the city, which has seen several terror attacks in the past. The outwitted police took them on but suffered losses initially. Among the first to die was Hemant Karkare, the highly regarded Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief heading the controversial probe into bomb attacks in Maharashtra blamed on Hindu radicals.
Among his four colleagues who were also believed to be killed were Additional Police Commissioners Ashok Kamte and Mumbai Police officer Vijay Salaskar who was known as "encounter specialist" for killing gangsters.
As police reinforcements rushed to the attack sites, backed by the hurriedly summoned paramilitary and Indian soldiers, 200 commandos of the National Security Guards (NSG) were flown from New Delhi. The NSG is trained to take on terrorists.
The security forces killed two terrorists and caught nine. But within a short time, a huge blast was heard on the top floor of the Taj Hotel and a raging fire erupted. Smoke billowed from there even Thursday.
The situation appeared to be somewhat under control Thursday, with police officers herding several tourists from the two hotels into ambulances and police vehicles to move them to safety. Yet there was no word on how many foreigners were dead but one Western woman — her nationality not known — was reportedly killed at Hotel Taj.
Maharashtra Director General of Police A.N. Roy said: "The terrorists have fired indiscriminately."
Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Ghafoor said AK-47 and AK-56 as well as semi-automatic rifles besides grenades were used in the "coordinated terrorist acts". On Thursday, a five-kilometre radius in south Mumbai, which covers business districts such as Colaba, Cuff Parade, Nariman Point and Churchgate, was cordoned off.
Train services resumed in Mumbai on Thursday but there were few passengers. There were few vehicles on the roads.