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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jewish Centre among Targets in Mumbai Terrorist Plot

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Gunfire erupted on Friday when commandos began an operation to free Israelis held by suspected Islamist gunmen in Mumbai, while guests were also being evacuated from a luxury hotel in India's financial heart, witnesses said.

Heavily armed Indian commandos, their faces covered by balaclavas, rappelled from helicopters onto the roof of a Mumbai Jewish center in what television reports said was an assault by the paramilitary National Security Guard to flush out the militants. The Jewish center was one of three pockets in Mumbai where Indian forces were battling die-hard militants more than 24 hours after brazen, coordinated attacks killed at least 121 people.

A witness said troops fired into the Mumbai Jewish center, apparently to provide cover, as commandos made at least three sorties and took up positions on the roof. The building is in a crowded part of the city, making a frontal assault difficult.

Not far away, another witness said hotel guests including foreigners were being evacuated from the besieged Mumbai Trident-Oberoi Hotel, one of two luxury hotels where police said militants were still holed up with an unknown number of hostages. "They are evacuating everyone. Everyone is being taken care of," an Indian woman said as she left the Mumbai hotel with her husband.

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. India's markets closed on Thursday. The main stock exchange reopened on Friday and fell 1.5 percent after see-sawing because of the attacks.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pinned blame for the Mumbai attacks on militant groups based in India's neighbors, usually an allusion to Pakistan, raising prospects of renewed tension between the nuclear-armed rivals. He warned of "a cost" if these nations did not take action to stop their territory being used to launch such attacks. An estimated 25 men armed with assault rifles and grenades -- at least some of whom arrived by sea -- had fanned out across Mumbai on Wednesday night to attack sites popular with tourists and businessmen, including Mumbai's top two luxury hotels.

Police said at least seven of the attackers were killed and nine suspects had been taken into custody. They said 12 policemen were killed, including Hemant Karkare, chief of the police anti-terrorist squad in Mumbai. At least six foreigners, including one Australian, a Briton, an Italian and a Japanese national, were killed. Scores of others were trapped in the fighting or were being held hostage. Police said 279 people were wounded.


The Hindu newspaper said at least three of the attackers taken into custody were members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, based in Pakistan. The group made its name fighting Indian rule in disputed Kashmir, and has been closely linked in the past to the Pakistani military's Inter Services Intelligence agency, the ISI. Lashkar-e-Taiba has denied any role in the attacks. "It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country," Prime Minister Singh said on Thursday.

"We will take up strongly with our neighbors that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them," he said in a televised address. Pakistan, condemning the assault, promised full cooperation. The militants appeared to specifically target Britons, Americans and Israelis, witnesses said. About 10 Israelis were being held in several different sites, authorities said. World leaders including U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, condemned the incident.

The attacks brought the biggest chaos to the city since serial bombings in 1993, blamed on the city's Muslim crime syndicates, killed 260 people and injured hundreds.

Here is a video from the Mubai War zone

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