Terror in Mumbai
At least 80 people—including foreigners—are killed as terrorists strike in Mumbai
TERRORISTS who have struck in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, causing the deaths of at least 80 people and wounding some 250 others, were said to be hunting in particular for Western targets. Reports on the evening of Wednesday November 26th suggested that a series of attacks had been co-ordinated against a variety of locations in the wealthy south of the city. Gunmen burst into train stations, restaurants, luxury hotels and even hospitals; at least one bomb exploded, destroying a taxi.
According to eye-witness accounts from people who escaped the attacks, hostages had been taken in two five-star hotels, with Westerners—in particular Britons and Americans—singled out for capture by the terrorists. Café Leopold, a well-known restaurant that is frequented by tourists and other foreign visitors, was attacked by gunmen. A witness at the Taj hotel described how two young men with guns and bombs were demanding foreigners, in particular anyone with British or American passports.
Gun battles were reported to be under way late on Wednesday night (early on Thursday, Indian time) in two hotels—the Taj and the Oberoi—that are popular with foreigners. Explosions were also heard and at least one of the hotels, the Taj, was shown on television to be ablaze. In a particular blow to local security forces, Hemant Karkare, the chief of the police anti-terrorist squad in Mumbai, was also killed according to Reuters news agency. The police spoke of terrorists holed up in at least seven locations in the city.
As of Wednesday night it was unclear who might be responsible for the attacks: indeed the assault by the terrorists appeared to be continuing, with the final toll feared to rise. The fact that the attack was co-ordinated across several locations suggests a sophisticated organistaion might be responsible.
India, a predominantly Hindu country, has not generally been seen as a dangerous destination for foreign visitors. Although the country has seen many thousand people fall victim to terrorists—including some 70 people who were killed in a strike in the north-east of the country earlier in November—it is unusual for Westerners to be attacked. Local insurgents, or militants loyal to extremists in Pakistan, are usually blamed for terrorist assaults. But it is unclear whether either such groups might be responsible for the latest strikes,
Mumbai rocked by deadly shootings
Gunmen have opened fire at a number of sites in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay), killing at least 78 people and injuring about 200 more.
Police said shooting was continuing and that the incidents were co-ordinated terrorist attacks. Gunmen have taken hostages at two luxury hotels.
At least seven sites have been targeted across India’s financial capital.
A fire is sweeping through the Taj Palace, Mumbai’s most famous hotel which is now surrounded by troops.
The BBC’s Andrew Whitehead says a claim of responsibility by a little-known group, Deccan Mujhaideen, may harden suspicions that Islamic radicals are involved.
But there are other possible culprits, our correspondent says.
The motive, far from clear – but the attacks come amid elections in several Indian states, including in disputed Kashmir.
In the latest developments:
- Commandos have surrounded two hotels, the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi, where gunmen are reported to be holding dozens of hostages, including foreigners
- A fire appears to be spreading through the Taj Mahal hotel
- A witness told local television that the gunmen were looking for people with British or US passports
- The head of Mumbai’s anti-terrorism unit is among those killed, according to local TV
- At least two blasts, suspected to be grenade attacks, have been reported
- The US and the UK have both condemned the attacks
On Wednesday, gunmen opened fire at about 2300 local time at sites in southern Mumbai including a train station, two five-star hotels, a hospital and a restaurant popular with tourists.
Police said the gunmen had fired indiscriminately.
“The terrorists have used automatic weapons and in some places grenades have been lobbed,” said AN Roy, police commissioner of Maharashtra state.
At least 10 people were killed at the main station Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, they said.
Some gunmen were still holed up in buildings that had been targeted, officials said.
Mr Roy said gunmen were holding people hostage at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels.
Local TV images showed blood-splattered streets, bodies being taken into ambulances and dramatic shots of what appeared to fresh blasts inside the Taj Mahal hotel.
One eyewitness told the BBC he had seen a gunman opening fire in the Taj Mahal’s lobby.
He said he had seen people fall before he fled the lobby.
BOMB ATTACKS IN INDIA IN 2008
30 October: Explosions kill at least 64 in north-eastern Assam
30 September: Blasts in western India kill at least seven
27 September: Bomb blasts kills one in Delhi
13 September: Five bomb blasts kill 18 in Delhi
26 July: At least 22 small bombs kill 49 in Ahmedabad
25 July: Seven bombs go off in Bangalore killing two people
13 May: Seven bomb hit markets and crowded streets in Jaipur killing 63
“All I saw was one man on foot carrying a machine gun type of weapon – which I then saw him firing from and I saw people hitting the floor, people right next to me,” he said.
There has been a wave of bombings in Indian cities in recent months which has left scores of people dead.
Most of the attacks have been blamed on Muslim militants, although police have also arrested suspected Hindu extremists.
A series of attacks in Mumbai in July 2006 killed almost 190 people and injured more than 700.
Bombs were detonated on commuter trains during rush hour.
Police accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of planning the attacks, which they said were carried out by an Islamist militant group, Lashkar-e-Toiba.
Pakistan rejected the allegation, saying there was no evidence that its intelligence staff were involved.
The shootings come at a time when ties between India and Pakistan have improved, and days after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told a summit in Delhi that Pakistan would not be first to carry out a missile strike on India.
The two countries have a joint anti-terror mechanism whereby they are supposed to share information on terrorist attacks.