Page last updated at 09:05 GMT, Saturday, 29 November 2008
Officials quit over India attacks


Images from inside the Taj Mahal hotel

The siege at Mumbai's Taj Mahal hotel is over, officials say, three days after deadly attacks struck the city.

Police commissioner Hassan Gafoor said the hotel was now under their control. "All combat operations are over. All the terrorists have been killed."

Commandos began a new assault early on Saturday aimed at ending fighting that has claimed at least 195 lives.

Commando chief JK Dutt told media three militants had been killed but his men still had to check all the hotel rooms.

Speaking to media outside the hotel, he appealed for any guests still hiding in the building to make their presence known and warned that small explosions might be heard as the clearing operation continued.

On Friday, almost 100 people were rescued from a second hotel, and six bodies were found at a Jewish centre.

India's foreign minister has said "elements with links to Pakistan" were involved in the attacks on Mumbai.

However, his Pakistani counterpart has urged India not to bring politics into the issue, saying "we should join hands to defeat the enemy".

The Pakistani government is to hold an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday to discuss the attacks.

But it has reversed a decision to send its intelligence chief to India to help with investigations, following criticism from opposition politicians and a lukewarm response from the army. It will send a lower-ranking representative instead.

'Ultimate sacrifice'

Extremely heavy and sustained gunfire was heard inside the Taj Mahal Palace hotel shortly before 0730 (0200 GMT) on Saturday, as soldiers rushed into the lobby in a bid to flush out the remaining few gunmen.

Firefighters then worked to contain fierce flames and thick smoke that billowed from the building's lower floors.

Soldiers near Taj Mahal

The BBC's Mark Dummett at the scene says the search is now on for any surviving militants who may be hiding in the hotel's 560-odd rooms, but security officials say they think the operation is now over.

All eyes will now be on India's investigation of the attacks, our correspondent says, with questions already being asked about the failure of its intelligence agencies to uncover the plans.

The commandos suspect that the militants knew the hotel well because they were very mobile during the course of the siege, he says, making it extremely difficult for security forces to secure an area in order to evacuate guests.

Indian media have reported that one of the militants worked as a chef for 10 months at the hotel.

Some have described this as India's 9/11, our correspondent adds, and people in India now want answers as to who is responsible.

Blasts had rung out for most of Friday after truckloads of commandos entered the premises.

A journalist and bystander outside the hotel were taken to hospital after being hit by shrapnel.

A suspected attacker, seen outside the station on 26 November 2008

Indian commandos who managed to enter other parts of the Taj say they found at least 30 bodies in one hall.

Fighting appears to have ended at the other key flashpoints in Mumbai, chief among them the Oberoi-Trident hotel - where nearly 100 people were rescued and 24 bodies were found earlier on Friday.

But at Nariman House, the Mumbai base of Chabad-Lubavitch, a New York-based orthodox Jewish organisation, the news was grim.

The organisation confirmed that Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, had been killed alongside his wife, Rivka. Their two-year-old son survived.

The Holtzbergs had moved to India in 2003 from New York to run the Mumbai branch of the outreach organisation, which offers services and hospitality to Jewish travellers.

The bodies were removed from the building early on Saturday.

30 October: Explosions kill at least 64 in north-eastern Assam
30 September: Blasts in western India kill at least seven
27 September: Bomb blasts kills one in Delhi
13 September: Five bomb blasts kill 18 in Delhi
26 July: At least 22 small bombs kill 49 in Ahmedabad
25 July: Seven bombs go off in Bangalore killing two people
13 May: Seven bombs hit markets and crowded streets in Jaipur killing 63

The stand-offs began late on Wednesday when gunmen armed with automatic weapons and grenades opened fire indiscriminately on crowds at a major railway station, the two hotels, the Jewish centre, a hospital and a cafe frequented by foreigners.

Indian officials says at least 195 people have been killed since Wednesday, with around 295 injured, the vast majority Indian citizens. The toll could rise further, they say.

At least 22 foreigners are known to have died, including victims from Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, Italy, Singapore, Thailand and France. One Briton, Andreas Liveras, has been killed.

A claim of responsibility for this week's attacks - the worst in India's commercial capital since nearly 200 people were killed in a series of bombings in 2006 - has been made by a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen.

However, most intelligence officials are keeping an open mind as the attacks have thrown up conflicting clues, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says.

 Map of Mumbai showing location of attacks

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