Terrorists used heavy machine guns, including AK-47s, and grenades to strike at the city’s most high-profile targets – the hyper-busy CST (formerly VT) rail terminus; the landmark Taj Hotel at the Gateway and the luxury Oberoi Trident at Nariman Point; the domestic airport at Santa Cruz; the Cama and GT hospitals near CST; the Metro Adlabs multiplex and Mazgaon Dockyard — killing at least 80 and sending more than 900 to hospital, according to latest reports.
The firings, which is reported to be still continuing, have taken a tragic toll on the city’s top police brass: The high-profile chief of the anti-terror squad Hemant Karkare was killed; Mumbai’s additional commissioner of police (east) Ashok Kamte was gunned down outside the Metro; and celebrated encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar was also killed.
The attacks appeared to be aimed at getting international attention as the terrorists took upto 40 British nationals and other foreigners hostage in two hotels – Taj and Oberoi. The chairman of Hindustan Unilever Harish Manwani and CEO of the company Nitin Paranjpe were among the guests trapped at the Oberoi. All the internal board members of the multinational giant were reported to be holed up in the Oberoi hotel.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Ghafoor said the attacks were suspected to be “coordinated terrorist acts”, and added that automatic weapons like AK-47 and AK-56 and semi-automatic rifles were apparently used. Most of the injured were policemen.
It appeared that small groups of heavily armed terrorists sneaked into busy public places, mostly in south Mumbai, leading to a scare in the metropolis that has been a target of terror attacks in recent years.
Police official said suspected terrorists opened fire at police and paramilitary forces outside the Hotel Taj Intercontinental in south Mumbai between 10.15 p.m. and 10.30 p.m.
The police officials, who refused to speak on record because it was too early to confirm anything, said firing was on near the five-star hotel where around 2,000 guests and staff were stranded. The body of a foreign woman guest was recovered from the Taj Hotel and two terrorists were holed up inside the building, a police official said. At least 90 percent portion of the 22-storey building was plunged into darkness as authorities cut off power in a precautionary measure.
Minutes later, bullets were fired near the Hotel Trident (previously known as Hotel Oberoi) – another five-star hotel barely a kilometre away from the Taj. At least 1,000 tourists were inside the hotel, which is in a high-security zone and lies just behind the Air India and Maharashtra legislature buildings. Suspected terrorists also opened indiscriminate firing near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (previously known as Victoria Terminus), the headquarters of the Central Railway, which is a world heritage building and remains crowded almost throughout the day.
A terrorist was hiding inside the railway terminus where thousands of people have been evacuated. As a precautionary measure, authorities suspended suburban and other railway services.
Later in the night, two bomb blasts, one in Vile Parle, a residential suburb in north Mumbai, and another in Mazgaon, also injured an unspecified number of people, the police officials said. The blast in Vile Parle occurred in a taxi, which was blown into pieces. There was a firing reported from the Bade Miya Street behind the Hotel Taj. All roads linking south Mumbai with the rest of the metropolis were barricaded. Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh urged people to maintain peace and calm even as a Red Alert was sounded across Maharashtra state.
Four major terrorist attacks have occurred in India’s financial capital Mumbai in the last 15 years. Following is a chronology of the major terrorist attacks here:
* Nov 26, 2008: Several killed and many more injured in seven terror attacks targeting mostly foreigners’ hangout places.
* July 11, 2006: More than 200 people killed in seven blasts on suburban trains and stations.
* Aug 25, 2003: 46 people killed in two blasts including one near the Gateway of India.
* March 12, 1993: A series of bomb blasts left 257 dead and around 700 injured.
Buildings attacked included the Bombay Stock Exchange, hotels, theatres, passport office, Air India building and Sahar Airport.
However news reports in Thursday afternoon, citing A N Roy, Director General of Police, said that all the hostages held in Taj Hotel were rescued by Indian forces.
Photo Courtesy: CNN-IBN