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Mumbai Siege Over, Indian Forces Kill Last Militants


Indian security officials say they have regained control of Mumbai following the most extended terrorist assault in the country's history. Some 60 hours after a group of gunmen threw India's commercial capital into bloody chaos, officials say all of the suspected Islamic militants have been killed or captured. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi on the end of the days of turmoil that has left nearly 200 people dead.

Along the Colaba coastline, at the Gateway of India, gunfire punctuated the early morning hours Saturday.

Inside and around the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, a building synonymous with modern Indian luxury, commandos tossed grenades and set fires to flush out the remaining terrorists.

Police forces had been overwhelmed. It took days of intense and prolonged battles between elite military squads and well-equipped, fiercely determined insurgents to end the siege at the Taj, the nearby Trident-Oberoi Hotel and the expatriate Jewish community center.

'Terrorists Killed'

The director-general of the National Security Guards, J.K. Dutt, said, "In the Taj, three terrorists have been killed." The National Security Guards spearheaded the operation at the three locations.

But Dutt told reporters at the Taj that he would not declare the last of the three urban combat sites secured until hundreds of rooms in the hotel had been cleared.

Dutt says an unknown number of terrified guests still need to be persuaded that it is safe to leave the rooms where many had taken refuge since Wednesday evening.

It had taken until Friday to eliminate the attackers from the two other sites where a number of civilians were found dead of gunshots. The Trident-Oberoi, like the Taj, had been stormed by the terrorists who made a systematic effort to capture foreigners, especially those holding American and British passports.

At the third site, Nariman House, there had been a grim unprecedented assault where Islamic radicals took Jewish hostages.

Commandos dropped by helicopter onto the roof of the Jewish community center early Friday engaged in a prolonged battle to free five Israeli hostages. All were found dead late in the day.

Death Toll Could Rise

Authorities say it could take many more days to make an accurate assessment of the carnage.

What is clear, so far, is that about 200 people were killed in the attacks, including many foreigners. Hundreds more were wounded in as many as 12 separate assaults.

Hundreds of millions of Indians were transfixed by televised images of burning luxury hotels and bloody carnage at rail stations and cafes where people of all classes and color mingled.

Indian allegations of Pakistani ties to the attack threaten to set back recent progress in often tense relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. Pakistan has denied any involvement in the attacks.

While India has suffered a wave of terrorist bombings in recent years this attack has rocked the nation and is expected to color the country's political and diplomatic mood for an extended time.

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