Terror strikes Mumbai

20081126mumbai27MUMBAI, India – Fresh gunshots rang out Thursday morning at the Hotel Taj where security forces battled terrorists holding hostages after a night of horror that left 101 people dead and over 250 injured in India’s most audacious terror attack.

As soldiers, police and elite commandos fanned out across the country’s commercial capital to rescue hostages and kill terrorists who stormed the city at night and struck at seven sites in the business hub of south Mumbai, one of the terrorists claimed that the attack was to avenge the “persecution” of Muslims in India.

The otherwise bustling city — home to Bollywood — was still on edge, more than 12 hours after a large but unknown number of terrorists armed with automatic rifles and grenades sneaked into Mumbai by the sea, a clear indication that they must be foreigners.

Desperate to cope with a situation they had never encountered before, the authorities declared a holiday in Mumbai Thursday. The Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange were ordered closed for the day.

“This is a most audacious attack. It is a very serious situation and gun battles are still on in at least three places,” said Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh as leaders around the world denounced the well-planned terrorist operation.

Television footage showed some terrorists, wearing dark colour T-shirts and holding automatic rifles, near some of the buildings under attack. One of them, who called himself Shahadullah, telephoned the India TV channel from Oberoi-Trident Hotel, which too was stormed, to claim that he was from the Indian city of Hyderabad but he spoke in Hindustani with what appeared to be a Pakistani accent.

He told the channel that the attack had been carried out to avenge the 1992 razing of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya and the “persecution” of Muslims in India. He demanded the release of jailed Indian Mujahideen militants in exchange for tourists taken hostage at the Taj and Oberoi Trident hotels as well as Nariman House in the heart of the city.

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