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Militant Attacks In India Leave More Than 100 Dead

Indian soldiers outside the Taj Mahal hotel
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has vowed to take "whatever measures are necessary" to punish those responsible for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai that have left more than 100 dead and 300 injured.

Singh also said the attackers had been based "outside the country" and that India would not tolerate "neighbors" who provide a haven to militants targeting it.

Pakistan's Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar said his country had played no role in the attacks.

Crowded Targets

Heavily armed gunmen struck at the heart of India's financial capital late on November 26, firing indiscriminately and throwing grenades.

The militants targeted a dozen crowded locations in the city of Mumbai, including a popular cafe, a hospital, a railway station, and two luxury hotels packed with foreign tourists.

Television footage showed the gunmen firing at passersby from a pick-up truck as the vehicle drove down a street in central Mumbai.

An unidentified witness told Reuters that his wife was injured in the violence: "I was at the railway station with six people, including my mother, we were heading to my village. We were about to board the Geetanjali Express. Suddenly a bomb exploded just few steps away from my luggage. I tried to reach my luggage, and my wife, who was also with me, was injured by a bullet."

The attackers then stormed two five-star hotels, the Taj Mahal and the Trident/Oberoi, where they took hostage and trapped scores of people.

Earlier today, commandos were able to free hostages from the Taj Mahal, but continued to exchange fire with the militants to rescue the dozens of people believed to be still trapped inside the hotel's rooms.

Officials say the attacks so far have killed at least 101 people and injured more than 300 others.

Sonia Gandhi, the head of India's ruling United Progressive Alliance government, said the terrorist attack in Mumbai was "an act of cowardice and deserves the strongest condemnation."

"A large number of civilian people have been killed and many more injured in this brutal carnage. I urge the people of Mumbai to remain calm and firm in these testing times. I'm confident that the resilience of the people of Mumbai shall remain undeterred," Gandhi said.

'External Linkages'

In an address to the nation, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the attacks were well planned and probably had "external linkages."

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 Trident/Oberoi hotel, a militant demanded all Islamist militants be freed from Indian jails.

Mumbai has been hit by terrorist attacks in the past, including a series of bombings in July 2006 that killed 187 people. But none of the previous attacks were so obviously targeted at foreigners.

Among those held captive at the two besieged hotels were Americans, British, Italians, Swedes, Canadians, Yemenis, New Zealanders, and Israelis.

Sandeep Hardwaj, an expert at New Delhi's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, explains in an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

"The most obvious explanation is that they are aiming for international recognition. South Asia right now is one of the most terror-hit regions in the world, but international media hardly ever talks about terrorism in India, in comparison to what is happening in other regions. So they're probably just looking for international media exposure," Hardwaj said.

The spate of attacks has drawn strong international condemnation.

The European Commission denounced the "heinous terrorist attacks," while the French government, which currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, voiced "horror and indignation."

In Washington, the White House held a meeting of top counter-terrorism officials and pledged to help the Indian government.