Terrorists were reported to be holding tourists and other guests hostages in two five-star hotels after series of planned and synchronized gunfire and bomb attacks in Mumbai, the heart of India's financial capital, late Wednesday, authorities said.
At least 80 people, including a foreign tourist and four top police officers, were killed and over 250 injured in the serial attacks.
Police officials said firing was on near the Taj Intercontinental and Trident (formerly Oberoi) hotels where the hostages were held and around 2,000 guests and staff were stranded.
The hotels are located facing the waterfront across the Arabian Sea close to the city's most important landmark, the Gateway of India.
Among terror targets was the city's busiest railway station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly the Victoria Terminus that is a World Heritage site.
A nationwide alert was sounded and all airports in the country put on high-security surveillance following the attacks that came less than a month after over 50 people died in serial terror bombings in the northeastern state of Assam.
Army was called in to bring the situation under control and restore the sense of security in the city that was literally shaken the attacks, one of the worst in the country.
"This is a most audacious attack. It is a very serious situation and gun battles are still on in at least three places," said Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Ghafoor said the attacks were suspected to be "coordinated terrorist acts", and added that automatic weapons like AK-47 and AK-56 and semi-automatic rifles as well as grenades were apparently used.
Many of the locations targeted, mostly in upscale south Mumbai, were preferred destinations of foreign tourists.
Maharashtra Director General of Police A.N. Roy said, "At least seven places have been attacked. The figure could be eight.
"The terrorists have gone in and fired indiscriminately at certain places. They are still holed up in three places and gun- battles have been on (with security forces)."
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil, who hold the home portfolio, confirmed more than 70 people were killed and 250 injured, many of them grievously.
But police officials said over 80 people have died in the series of attacks.
(Xinhua News Agency November 27, 2008)