Mumbai Terror Siege Ends, Taj Hotel Being Sanitized

by VR Sreeraman on Nov 29 2008 5:26 PM

An official of the Mumbai Disaster Control Office on Saturday confirmed that the death toll in the terrorist strikes has risen to 195. He also said that the number of injured is presently pegged at 295.

Revealing the statistics, Shantaram Jadhav was quoted by an agency as saying: “The death toll is likely to rise because there are still bodies in our vans that are being brought into hospitals."

His comment came as commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) were continuing with their mopping up and sanitising operations at the beseiged Taj Mahal Hotel after killing three terrorists and arresting one.

The operation to flush out terrorists from the hotel is over, said NSG Director General J.K. Dutt, but he added that sanitising of the 400-room hotel is going on.

Meanwhile, Ratan Tata, the owner of the hotel visited it this morning to assess the situation and the damage wrought by the terrorists.

An Indian navy spokesman said an abandoned trawler found with a corpse near the coast of Mumbai has been brought to Mumbai and investigations are on whether it was used in the terorist siege.

Captain Manohar Nambiar said the trawler was found on Thursday drifting 15-20 miles off the coast of Mumbai.

Earlier in the day, Dutt did not officially confirm the operation as being over. He said the operation will be over only when all rooms are sanitised, but added that the Taj hotel is under the NSG's control.

Black plumes of smoke still billowing out of the hotel with security forces exchanged in a heavy firefight with militants holed up inside.

Television reports said that as the offensive was launched five large explosions were heard from inside the hotel's heritage building early on Saturday followed by intense gunfire between NSG commandos and the terrorists.

The first explosion was heard at around 3:40 a.m., and within 30 minutes four more large explosions were heard from the same area.

"They (terrorists) are changing their positions. We have to also, on the spot, try and change our tactics, strategies," said NSG Director General J K Dutt earlier when he was asked about the latest on the ongoing siege.

"From the intensity of the firing and different area they have occupied, I would say there would be two or three of them," he said, adding that the final picture would emerge after the operation is over and all rooms are checked.

"Our information is that they have been hit," he said, but refused to divulge further details.

The final assault began at 1.30 a.m. Reports said that there was heavy firing and explosions inside the popular Japanese restaurant Wasabi late on Friday night.

There is still confusion over the total number of militants inside the hotel, and the army said that the NSG is in contact with one terrorist in the old wing of Taj. There is a report of one injured militant.

Earlier on Friday night, Nariman House was cleared by the NSG, which set off huge explosions to ensure no terrorist escaped. The entire building was combed to ensure that it was safe for entry.

Five hostages and two terrorists were found dead inside the building. They included a Jewish rabbi and his wife, whose infant son was whisked to safety by its nanny the day before.

The NSG commandos were cheered as they came out by thousands of people who had gathered outside the building. The Rapid Action Force had to baton charge the crowd to keep it under control, and allow seven hostages to be taken out of the building.

Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Home, Sriprakash Jaiswal has said that the death toll from the serial strikes in Mumbai could cross the 200 mark.

"Once the bodies are collected, the number of deaths might go up to 200," said Jaiswal, adding that the operation could have been completed much earlier if saving the hostages taken by the terrorists not been a consideration.

"Our efforts were to ensure that casualties were minimum," he said.