Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

Britons trapped in Mumbai hotels

Prime Minister Gordon Brown: 'Shocked and outraged'

Britons have barricaded themselves in their rooms after gunmen stormed two luxury hotels in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay).

The gunmen had reportedly been seeking out UK and US passport holders.

A British businessman, who spent the night trapped in his room at a hotel, said there was "no escape".

Indian authorities claim one Briton has died but the Foreign Office said there had been no independent verification. Seven UK citizens have been injured.

The England cricket team, which is in India, has postponed the final two one-day matches against the national side.

The Foreign Office has advised against all non-essential travel to Mumbai until further notice.

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At least 101 people have been killed, and at least 300 injured, in the co-ordinated shootings in southern Mumbai.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said it was too early to say whether Britons were among the dead.

"We will do whatever is necessary to protect British citizens and ensure the world is a safer place," he said.

"This is a horrific incident which has shocked and outraged people around the world.

"We've got to do everything we can now to help the Indian authorities."

Conservative leader David Cameron said the world must "stand together" against terrorists, adding: "We will not be cowed or bullied by these people."

'Started firing'

Police in Mumbai said the shootings at a number of high-profile locations in the main tourist and business district were co-ordinated terrorist attacks late on Wednesday.

A previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahedeen has said it carried out the attacks.

Scores of people, said to include foreign nationals, are being held hostage in the Oberoi Trident hotel.

Most guests have been brought out of the Taj Mahal hotel by soldiers amid gunfire and further explosions, but police said some remained trapped.

There's nothing we can do. It would be fool hardy to leave the room
Trapped hotel guest

Speaking from his hotel room, a British businessman, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told BBC News he had pushed the furniture against the door for protection.

He said he had heard gunshots, blasts and people running along the corridors throughout the night.

"It's not the most pleasant of experiences," he said. "I suppose it's a question of British stiff upper lip.

"There's nothing we can do. It would be foolhardy to leave the room."

Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim, who was in India's financial capital as part of a trade delegation with fellow British MEP Syed Kamall, was in the Taj Mahal hotel when it came under attack.

He told the BBC how he ran through the lobby to escape a gunman.

"There was a group of about 17 or 18 of us and another gunman appeared, he had an automatic machine gun type of weapon in his hands and he just pointed it straight at us and started firing," he said.

There was more firing, it felt like the gunman was coming towards us, I was hiding in the lift trying not to be shot
Alan Jones, British businessman in Mumbai

"People immediately in front of me and to the side of me started to fall and about three or four of us managed to somehow get away. It was all quite quick really."

British High Commissioner in India, Sir Richard Stagg, described the attacks as "mindless" and said there were likely to be more UK injured.

"We have visited most of the central hospitals where those injured have been taken and have met seven British victims who are in hospital at the moment and we understand there is likely to be some other injured of British nationality," he said.

He refused to discuss the nature of their injuries and said the identities of the hostages being held across the city were unknown.

'After foreigners'

Rakesh Patel, a businessman who was eating in the restaurant of the Taj Mahal Palace when gunmen burst in, said: "They wanted anyone with British or American passports. So I guess they were after foreigners."

Media executive Alan Jones was sprayed with blood when gunmen shot a passenger standing alongside him in a lift at the Oberoi Trident when its doors opened at the hotel's lobby.

"I'm not sure if he was shot once or twice, but he was certainly shot in the back of the leg quite badly, with blood and flesh and bone just showering us in the lift," Mr Jones said.

Mr Jones managed to close the lift's doors and escape, eventually fleeing the building to safety.

Jake Betts, a lawyer from Bristol who has been working in Mumbai since October, said his family were "prisoners" in their own home, which is close to both the Oberoi and the Taj Mahal hotels.

Guests flee from the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai
Guests flee from the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai

He was supposed to meet his wife in Leopold's, a popular tourist bar which came under attack, but they were in their flat when the shooting started about 2230 local time.

"We heard two or three explosions and then gunshots. We haven't slept," he said. "There were blasts and shots this morning.

"We live at the southern tip of Mumbai and there is no way for us to get north without putting ourselves in danger. It's like a military stand off - guns against guns."

British tourist Morwenna Grills, who sought shelter in a shop when the Taj Mahal hotel came under attack, said the atmosphere in the city was "very eerie".

"We did go out briefly and everything was shut down," she said.

As news of the seriousness of the attacks came in, the British government convened an emergency meeting known as the Consular Crisis Group.

Two Red Cross experts have been dispatched to Mumbai as part of a Foreign Office rapid response team to help British families affected by the attacks.

British counter-terrorism police officers will also travel to help Indian authorities.

One British couple were evacuated from the Heritage Wing of the Taj Mahal, the tour operator Cox & Kings confirmed.

The England cricket squad will remain in Bhubaneswar, east India, until at least Friday morning as the England and Wales Cricket Board continues talks with India officials.

A second Test match is scheduled to be played in Mumbai from 19 December.

The England squad stayed at the Taj Mahal hotel two weeks ago and was due to return there ahead of the second test.

The Foreign Office has issued an emergency number for people with relatives in Mumbai: 0207 008 0000.

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