104 Killed In Terror Attack on Mumbai

MUMBAI, India -- Black-clad Indian commandoes raided two luxury hotels to try to free hostages Thursday evening, and explosions and gunshots shook India's financial capital a day after suspected Muslim militants killed 104 people.

Rescue efforts continued throughout the day amid sporadic gunfire, with some hostages escaping and others rescued by police. Several bodies were carried out of the five-star Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, one of 10 sites seized by gunmen on Wednesday night.

More than 300 were also injured in the highly coordinated attacks by bands of gunmen armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and explosives.

Flames burst from the hotel's top floors and dome shortly after the attacks began Wednesday night and erupted again after commandoes raided the building Thursday.

After dusk Thursday, the soldiers ushered several dozen captives out of the Oberoi Hotel, another Mumbai landmark.

The Russian Consulate in Mumbai had received no reports of Russians being killed or injured in the attacks, Consul General Alexei Redkin said, Interfax reported Thursday evening.

He said two Aeroflot flight attendants remained in the Oberoi Hotel, the news agency reported.

"A counterterrorism operation is still under way, so we have asked the flight attendants to remain in their rooms, and we are in contact with them," Redkin said. "The women are not and have not at any point been hostage to the terrorists, and for their own safety, at the request of the Indian authorities, they are not trying to leave the hotel."

The consulate had evacuated nine Russian specialists from state arms export agency Rosoboronexport who had been staying at the hotels that were attacked, Redkin said, Interfax reported. Eight Aeroflot employees staying at another hotel in the area had also been moved, he said.

One of the freed hostages, who did not give his name, told reporters that he had seen many bodies inside the hotel. He refused to give more details, saying he had promised police not to discuss the rescue while it was ongoing.

The Maharashtra State Home Ministry said 45 captives had been freed from the Oberoi and 35 were still trapped inside.

Police said they were going slowly to protect the captives.

"The safety of the people trapped is very important," said A. N. Roy, a senior police officer. "It will take time, but it will be completed successfully," he said.

Among the dead were at least one Australian, a Japanese and a British national, said Pradeep Indulkar, a senior government official of Maharashtra state, whose capital is Mumbai. An Italian and a German were also killed, according to their foreign ministries.

Police said 104 people were killed and 314 injured. Officials said eight militants were also killed.

The most high-profile target was the Taj, a favorite watering hole of the city's elite.

Soldiers outside the hotel said the operation would take a long time, as forces were moving slowly from room to room looking for gunmen and traps.

In the afternoon, bodies and hostages slowly emerged from the building. At least three bodies, covered in white cloth, were wheeled out.

The attackers, dressed in black shirts and jeans, had stormed into the hotel at about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday and opened fire indiscriminately.

The shooting was followed by a series of explosions that set fire to parts of the century-old edifice on Mumbai's waterfront. Screams were heard, and black smoke and flames billowed, continuing to burn until dawn.

The gunmen also seized the Mumbai headquarters of the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch. About 10:30 a.m., a woman, a child and an Indian cook were seen being led out of the building by police, a witness said.

Among those foreigners still held captive in all three buildings were Americans, British, Canadians, Israelis, Italians, New Zealanders, a Singaporian, Spaniards, Swedes, Turks and Yemenis.

At least three top Indian police officers -- including the chief of the anti-terror squad -- were among those killed, said Roy.

Russia, the United States and Pakistan were among the countries that condemned the attacks.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in Venezuela on Thursday for talks with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said the suffering is being widely felt.

He expressed dismay at the attacks during a visit to Venezuela Wednesday night, saying, "What these terrorist acts do is harm all of humanity."

In Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush offered Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "support and assistance" as he works to restore order in the growing Southwest Asian nation, according to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

The motive for the onslaught was not immediately clear, but Mumbai has frequently been targeted in terrorist attacks blamed on Islamic extremists, including a series of bombings in July 2006 that killed 187 people.

An Indian media report said a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attacks in e-mails to several media outlets. There was no way to verify that claim.

AP, MT