Hostages still held in Mumbai siege

November 28, 2008 12:00 am

, MUMBAI, November 28  – At least one gunman with two possible hostages was holding off security personnel in Mumbai’s Taj Mahal hotel, a senior army officer said on Friday.

"It is confirmed that there is contact with one terrorist as of now. He is moving between two floors," said Lieutenant General S. Thamburaj, who heads the southern command of the Indian army.

"We heard a sound of a lady and a gentleman so it is possible that this terrorist has got two or more hostages with him," he told reporters outside the hotel.

Minutes after he spoke, gunfire could be heard from inside the hotel.

Thamburaj said two terrorists had been killed on Thursday evening in an exchange of fire.

"As of now, almost all the guests in the hotel and the staff have been evacuated," he said, predicting that security operations would be wrapped up in "hours."

Latest reports say at least at least 93 people, most of them foreigners, had been released from Mumbai’s Oberoi/Trident hotel more than 36 hours after armed militants seized the building.

The guests, including one carrying a baby, left after a military and police rescue operation. They were ushered on to waiting minibuses before being driven away.

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.

One of those 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."

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."

Along with the nearby Taj Mahal hotel, the Oberoi/Trident was seized by gunmen in a wave of coordinated attacks across Mumbai which killed at least 130 people.

On Thursday, the vice-chairman of the Oberoi Group of hotels, S.S. Mukherji, said that about 200 people were trapped inside the hotel.

The Oberoi/Trident was one of two five-star hotels seized by gunmen late Wednesday, after a series of militant strikes across the Indian city.


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