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Mumbai Siege Ends As Death Toll Nears 200


An Indian soldier keeps watch outside the Taj Mahal hotel, the last site held by militants, on November 29
India is assessing the damage following the apparent end of a three-day siege by suspected Islamic militants in Mumbai.

Authorities announced that commandos had taken control of the last remaining site held by the attackers -- the luxury Taj Mahal hotel -- after killing three gunmen who had continued to battle security forces.

The city's disaster management office said a total of 195 people are confirmed to have been killed and 295 others wounded in the attacks.

The victims were mainly Indians, but the dead include around 20 foreigners from the United States, Israel, Australia, several European countries, and elsewhere. Officials said a New York-based rabbi and his wife were among the dead.

Authorities are still trying to identify the group responsible for the attacks.

India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the blame appeared to point to what he described as "elements" in India's neighboring rival, Pakistan. Pakistan's government has denied any involvement in the attacks.

Site Of Siege

The Taj Mahal hotel was the last remaining battleground after the militants launched their well-coordinated attacks on the night of November 26.

On November 28, commandos stormed another of thet attackers' targets that remained under siege: a Jewish center where hostages were being held. At least five Israeli hostages were killed at the site.

At the Oberoi Trident Hotel, security forces freed nearly 100 people. The head of one commando unit at the Taj Mahal Palace, his face covered with a black scarf and sunglasses, described the attackers as "a very determined lot, remorseless."

The soldier, who would not reveal his identity to reporters, said he had seen scores of bodies scattered through the hotel.

Scores of panic-stricken tourists and foreigners have fled the violence.

Celia Meirow, an Israeli woman who lives in Mumbai, chose to leave until calm returns to the city. She spoke to Reuters on November 28 after landing at Tel-Aviv's airport.

"They told us not to leave the house, to close the windows, and just for the next few days to stay inside. But we decided to leave the country anyway because there were rumors that terrorists whom they didn't catch are still walking around in the street, and that the riots from the other side are going to get a bit wilder in the next few days," Meirow said.

France has sent a plane to Mumbai to repatriate Europeans caught up in the attacks. The French Foreign Ministry says Spain and Germany have asked that the flight also bring back their nationals.

A previously unknown Islamic militant group, the Deccan Mujahideen, has claimed responsibility for the carnage -- the latest in a series of terror attacks across Indian cities.

Speaking to Indian television by telephone from the Oberoi Trident Hotel on November 27, a militant demanded all Islamist militants be freed from Indian jails.

Indian officials have been quick to point their finger at Pakistan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the militants had come from "outside" India -- a phrase sometimes used by Indian officials to refer to extremists from neighboring rival Pakistan.