Commandos storm Mumbai hotels
Randeep Ramesh reports from Mumbai
South Asia correspondent
RANDEEP RAMESH: Well, Indian commandos have tightened the noose around both the hotels, and they have claimed to release a few hostages out of the Taj, but there remains a state of siege in both those places.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Commandos ran into the Taj Mahal as fresh gunshots rang out. Authorities believe up to 15 foreigners are being held hostage there.
A. N. ROY, DIRECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE, MAHARASHTRA STATE: We won’t be able to put a number. The people who were held up there are being rescued from the Taj Hotel; all those people who were held up there last night, in banquet halls and restaurants, they’re all safely evacuated, mostly in the night, some early morning today. But there are guests in the rooms. We don’t know the numbers here, how many [inaudible] there are hotel people to be able to tell. But we are trying to check them and clear them as well, so that they will all be—those who are there will remain safe.
RAMESH: The Oberoi Hotel has also got hostages. Now, we went there earlier today. Again, very similar scene—lots of police, lots of press, lots of commandos. The only difference there is, as we understand it, there has been some communication with people inside saying that "I’ll kill a hostage if you don’t move away from the building." But, again, this is Indian television reporting this, so we’ve had no independent confirmation of that.
INTERVIEWER: So give us an idea of the extent of the attack overnight?
RAMESH: Well, there’s been about eight places hit in Mumbai in various [inaudible] a popular café was shot up. Main station, where a great number of people, dozens, died, you know, they just came in wielding guns and sprayed bullets across a busy commuter platform, and they’re pretty gory pictures. Now, this sort of coordinated guns-and-grenades type attack is something we usually see in Indian Kashmir; it’s not something that’s taken to the streets of major cities. Major cities have seen coordinated, synchronized bombing strikes. This is of a different order. It’s a different kind of terror tactic. Seems to me there’s one thing that everybody can agree on: it has literally closed down Mumbai. This is a very busy city, one of the biggest cities in the world, and there is no traffic on the streets. You can make it down to the airport, down to the tip of Mumbai in less than half an hour. That’s remarkable in a city that’ll take normally a couple of hours [inaudible]
INTERVIEWER: It must have involved quite a number of gunmen, mustn’t it?
RAMESH: Yeah. It’s a bit difficult to give you an accurate account how they managed to conceal AK-47s and wield them with impunity in a city that is known for its bombing. And it’s had a long experience with terrorism, but really not on this scale and not with this audacity.
INTERVIEWER: This operation could go on for some time.
RAMESH: Yeah. We are bedding in, it seems to be, especially as negotiations are taking place. This could be strung out for days.
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