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India Sees 'External Link' As Troops Battle Militants

Employees and guests of the Taj Mahal hotel are recued by firefighters

Employees and guests of the Taj Mahal hotel are recued by firefighters

MUMBAI (Reuters) -- Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on November 27 the attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 100 people were well planned and probably had "external linkages."

Singh was speaking as witnesses in the Indian financial capital said commandos exchanged fresh fire with suspected Islamist militants inside the Taj Hotel and at the nearby Trident-Oberoi, where scores of people were trapped and some taken hostage.

Commandos had also gathered outside a Jewish centre where a rabbi is thought to have beeen taken hostage, but later apparently decided to hold off from an assault.

"The well-planned and well-orchestrated attacks, probably with external linkages, were intended to create a sense of terror by choosing high-profile targets," Singh said in an address to the nation.

He said that New Delhi would "take up strongly" the use of neighbors' territory to launch attacks on India.

Indian governments have in the past blamed neighbouring Pakistan or sometimes Bangladesh for supporting or harbouring militant groups for these attacks.

"It is evident that the group that carried these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country," Singh said.

Commandos earlier freed hostages from the Taj but battled on with the Islamist militants who had launched their audacious attack after they arrived by boats in Mumbai on November 26.

The gunmen had fanned out in the heart of the city, firing indiscriminately, and attacking luxury hotels, a landmark cafe, hospitals, and a railway station.

Some 17 hours after the late-evening assault, soldiers and militants were still exchanging intermittent fire and more than 100 people were trapped inside rooms of the Taj Mahal hotel, a 105-year-old city landmark.

"People who were held up there, they have all been rescued," Maharashtra state police chief A.N. Roy told NDTV news. "But there are guests in the rooms, we don't know how many."

Roy said some people were still apparently being held hostage at the nearby Trident/Oberoi Hotel. "That is why the operation is being conducted more sensitively to ensure there are no casualties of innocent people."


Police said at least six foreigners were killed and another 287 people were wounded in the attacks, which were claimed by the little-known Deccan Mujahideen group.

"Release all the mujahideens, and Muslims living in India should not be troubled," said a militant inside the Oberoi, speaking to Indian television by telephone.

The man, who identified himself only as Sahadullah, said he was one of seven attackers inside the hotel, and wanted Islamist militants to be freed from Indian jails.

Later, an explosion was heard at the hotel, a Reuters witness said.

At least two guests, trapped in their rooms in the Taj, also phoned TV stations. One said the firedoors were locked, and another said he had seen two dead bodies by the swimming pool.

"Two of my colleagues are still in there and the last we heard from them was three hours ago and then the phone battery died," said a German national who escaped the Taj.

The attacks were bound to spook investors in one of Asia's largest and fastest-growing economies.

Mumbai has seen several major bomb attacks in the past, but never anything so obviously targeted at foreigners.

Authorities closed stock, bond and foreign exchange markets, and the central bank said it would continue auctions to keep cash flowing through interbank lending markets, which seized up after the global financial crisis.