Hostage situation ends in Mumbai's Taj Hotel
Mumbai, November 27, 2008
India's Maharashtra state police chief A N Roy said on Thursday that the hostage situation had ended at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, but that there were still apparently hostages in the Trident/Oberoi.
'People who were held up there, they have all been rescued,' Roy told the NDTV news channel. 'But there are guests in the rooms, we don't know how many.'
Roy said some people were still apparently being held hostage at the Trident/Oberoi Hotel.
'That is why the operation is being conducted more sensitively to ensure there are no casualties of innocent people.'
Earlier, suspected Islamist gunmen launched waves of attacks in the heart of India's financial capital, killing at least 101 people and taking many foreigners hostage in two of the city's plushest hotels.
The late-night attacks sent shockwaves through an economy already under strain. Authorities closed stock, bond and foreign exchanges as commandos and armed police laid siege to the gunmen.
At least 101 people were killed, including six foreigners, police said. Another 287 people were wounded in the attacks, which were claimed by the little-known Deccan Mujahideen group.
One militant inside the Oberoi told Indian television by phone that the hostages would only be freed when all mujahideens, or Islamic holy warriors, being held in Indian jails were freed.
The man, who identified himself only as Sahadullah, said he was one of seven attackers inside the hotel.
'Release all the mujahideens, and Muslims living in India should not be troubled,' he said.
The central bank closed the bond and foreign exchange markets but said it would continue auctions to keep cash flowing through interbank lending markets, which seized up after the global financial crisis destroyed Wall Street banks in September.
The attacks were bound to spook investors in one of Asia's largest and fastest-growing economies. Mumbai has seen several major bomb attacks in the past, but never anything so obviously targeted at foreigners.
Foreigners have already been heavy sellers of Indian assets and a steep fall in the Indian rupee was now feared.
Nerves were already clearly rattled. Credit default swaps, insurance-like contracts on the State Bank of India's five-year bonds, widened 15 basis points to 435 basis points.
Trade Minister Kamal Nath described the attacks as 'an unfortunate event' but said he did not expect they would slow investment.
The attacks could be another blow for the Congress Party-led government ahead of a general election due by early 2009.
The government has suffered a string of state election losses in the last year. The main Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has done well in state polls, has criticised the government for being soft on terrorism after a series of bomb attacks in Indian cities this year.
Strategic expert Uday Bhaskar said the attacks had grave implications for India on many levels. 'The fact that they were trying to segregate British and American passport holders definitely suggests Islamist fervour,' Bhaskar said.
Small groups of militants armed with automatic weapons and grenades burst into the luxury hotels, a hospital and a railway station late on Wednesday, as well as a famous cafe popular with foreign tourists, firing indiscriminately and tossing grenades.
'There are many people trapped inside the two hotels it seems, and we are hearing reports of constant gunfire, mostly from the Taj hotel,' a duty officer at the Mumbai police control room said.
The attackers appeared to target British and Americans as they sought hostages. Police said an Israeli rabbi and his family were being held hostage in a Mumbai apartment. Witnesses said the attackers were young South Asian men speaking Hindi or Urdu.