Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 17:41 pm (KSA) 14:41 pm (GMT)

Up to 155 dead, 327 injured in Mumbai attacks

A TV grab from Indian TV shows rescue workers pulling a woman out of the Taj Mahal
A TV grab from Indian TV shows rescue workers pulling a woman out of the Taj Mahal

Up to 155 people have been killed and 327 others have been wounded in a series of coordinated attacks by Islamist militants in 10 sites across India's financial capital Mumbai starting Wednesday night, Indian media reported late Friday.

The Press Trust of India news agency quoted a government minister as saying the final death toll could reach 200.

"Once the bodies are collected, the number of deaths might go up to 200," India's Minister of State for Home Affairs Sri Prakash Jaiswal told the agency.

Jewish victims

Commandos storm Jewish center

The bodies of five Israeli hostages seized by Islamist militants were recovered earlier from a Jewish center in Mumbai after it was stormed by Indian commandos, an Israeli diplomat said.

"Five bodies of hostages have been found. They are Israeli nationals," Eli Belotsercovsky, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, said.

The Press Trust of India quoted Indian national security guard chief J.K. Dutt as saying the militant gunmen had killed the hostages during Friday's commando assault on the building.

"We had taken over the second floor of the house when a grenade was launched from above. Three hostages were killed by terrorists," Dutt said.

As the commando unit moved upstairs, the militants killed another two hostages on the fourth floor, he added.

At least 93 guests, most of them foreigners, held by Islamist militants in a luxury hotel were being evacuated room by room as the end of a siege appeared imminent earlier on Friday.

Well-dressed guests, some dragging their suitcases, and one carrying a baby emerged from the Trident-Oberoi hotel and were escorted into waiting buses and cars.

Some of the guests talked on mobile phones as they walked past reporters without commenting. Others were carrying laptop bags or suitcases but many came out only in the clothes they were wearing.

Another waved as he boarded the bus, looking relieved.

Shock

 I cannot believe what I have seen in the last 36 hours. I have seen dead bodies, blood everywhere and only heard gunshots. 
Survivor

One of the guests brought out, Muneer al-Mahaj told reporters: "I am hungry and thirsty. Let me eat first. I have not seen a proper meal for the last 36 hours. I have been surviving only on biscuits and that too got over."

"Last night I ran out of water too," he said.

Mahaj, from the southern Iraqi city of Basra, was in Mumbai on a business trip with a friend. He was in a room on the fourth floor of the hotel when the militants stormed the building late Wednesday.

"I cannot believe what I have seen in the last 36 hours. I have seen dead bodies, blood everywhere and only heard gunshots," he added.

"First I thought it will get over by next day morning but I could not believe that these terrorists took all of us hostage for more than 36 hours," he said.

Police said 93 guests had been evacuated so far. On Thursday, the vice-chairman of the Oberoi Group of hotels, S.S. Mukherji, said that about 200 people were trapped inside the hotel.

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal burns

At least one militant was holding two hostages in the luxury Taj Mahal Hotel, 36 hours after the brazen, coordinated attacks in the city that police said killed at least 130 people. Army Commander Lieutenant-General N. Thamburaj said.

He told reporters that almost all guests and staff had been evacuated from the Taj and the operation would be wrapped up there in a few hours.
A chief of an Indian commando unit flushing out militants at the Taj Mahal said that he saw 12 to 15 bodies in one room.

"We found 12-15 bodies," the commander, whose face was disguised in a black scarf and sunglasses, told a news conference.

The commandos found money, ammunition and an identity card from Mauritius thought to have belonged to the militants.

Mumbai, a city of 18 million, is the nerve-center of India's growing economic might and home to the "Bollywood" film industry.

Hindu-dominated India, which has a sizeable Muslim minority, has been hit by militant attacks for decades. But this strike seemed aimed at crippling its ability to draw foreign investment.

Australia upgraded its travel warning for India on Friday, telling its nationals to reconsider any plans to go there "because of the very high risk of terrorist activity".

Horror stories

 We heard some gunshots. We barricaded the restaurant and we moved everybody into the kitchen...We basically put the lights off in the restaurant just to create an element of surprise. And we armed ourselves with kitchen knives and meat cleavers. 
Taj Mahal security guard

Eyewitnesses have described dramatic scenes of terror in Mumbai-- from bodies in pools of blood to desperate hotel guests arming themselves with cleavers to survive.

Caught up in the brazen attack on India's financial hub, many said they cowered in the dark for hours, waiting to be rescued and fearing the militants would shoot them dead at any moment.

"We heard some gunshots. We barricaded the restaurant and we moved everybody into the kitchen," said Faisul Nagel, a South African security guard who was in the Taj Mahal hotel with colleagues when the assault began.

Using tables and refrigerators to barricade themselves in, Nagel said they armed themselves with the only weapons they could put their hands on.

"We basically put the lights off in the restaurant just to create an element of surprise. And we armed ourselves with kitchen knives and meat cleavers," he said.

They ended up helping around 120 people escape -- including a 90-year-old woman who had to be carried in her chair down 25 flights of stairs.

Paul Guest, a retired Australian judge, was found by armed soldiers in his room at the Taj Mahal. He could scarcely believe what he saw when he was led to safety.

"Outside in the foyer of this beautiful hotel, (it) was just like in a fog with all the smoke," he told Australian radio. "There was blood all over the floor and bits of bodies."

Night of terror

 We've been waiting for hours and hours for the army to come and say we can go downstairs 
Female hostage

It was a harrowing night of terror for many, who tried not to make noise for fear of attracting the attention of the attackers. They feared coming out of their rooms, with the sound of shooting all around.

"We've been waiting for hours and hours for the army to come and say we can go downstairs," one Western woman told AFP by phone late Thursday from inside the Oberoi/Trident.

"We have to keep silent. They could be looking for hostages," she said.

David Coker, 23, and his partner Katie Anstee, 24, had just arrived for a holiday to celebrate their graduation from university when they went to eat at Mumbai's Cafe Leopold on Wednesday night.

"We had literally just ordered and then it seemed like firecrackers -- people were screaming," he told Australia's Courier-Mail newspaper.

Anstee was shot in the leg, with the bullet breaking her femur and exiting through the front of her thigh, while Coker was grazed by a bullet.

"I turned around and she was crawling out the door because she couldn't walk," he said.

Coker said the attackers looked "just like boys."

Garrick Harvison, who was trapped in the Oberoi with an Australian trade delegation, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he kept looking at pictures of his young family to remain calm during his ordeal.

"For about the last six hours I've been told: 'Yes, you're out soon, you're out soon, you're out soon'," Harvison said. "But I understand the situation that people don't want to go anywhere until (the militants) are eradicated."

One man who did not survive was 73-year-old Andreas Liveras, who gave an interview to the BBC by phone while he was stuck inside the Taj Mahal.

He said that as he was speaking, "The last bomb exploded about 45 minutes ago and it shook the hotel up. Nobody comes in this room and nobody goes out, and we don't really know."

Liveras was later confirmed dead. The Cyprus News Agency quoted his brother saying he had been "assassinated in cold blood".

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