Gunmen attacks across Mumbai kill at least 101, others held hostage

Gunmen launched co-ordinated attacks at several crowded locations across India's financial capital on Wednesday, killing at least 101 people and holding several people hostage through the night at two luxury hotels.

'The situation is still not under control': minister

A police officer stands guard after shootings at a railway station in Mumbai on Wednesday. ((Reuters))

Gunmen launched co-ordinated attacks at several crowded locations across India's financial capital on Wednesday, killing at least 101 people and holding several people hostage through the night at two luxury hotels.

At least seven locations in Mumbai, including a restaurant popular with tourists and a crowded train station, were targeted in the rifle and grenade attacks, which began around 10:30 p.m. local time.

"At least six foreigners have been killed and the death figure has gone up to 101 now," Ramesh Tayde, a senior police officer told Reuters Thursday morning as a curfew was declared in parts of the city.

Though reports of injuries fluctuated throughout the evening, 287 are now believed to have been wounded, Tayde said. No Canadians have been reported killed or injured in the attacks.

Gunmen were still holding hostages at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower and another five-star hotel, the Oberoi, as dawn approached Thursday, according to officials. The two are among the country's best-known hotels.

A man carries a victim of a gun attack at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station. (Rajanish Kakade/Associated Press)

"The situation is still not under control, and we are trying to flush out any more terrorists hiding inside the two hotels," said Vilasrao Deshmukh, Maharashtra state's chief minister, noting 11 police officers had been killed across the city.

Media reports said seven to 15 foreigners were being held at the Taj Mahal, while gunmen were holding an unknown number of hostages at the Oberoi.

Television footage showed a room on the top floor of the Taj Mahal erupting in flames, as smoke billowed from the roof amid media reports of explosions and heavy gunfire being heard coming from within the building. The fire was still burning Thursday morning.

"The terrorists are throwing grenades at us from the rooftop of the Taj and trying to stop us from moving in," said police inspector Ashok Patil.

A Canadian woman named Manuela Testolini told CNN that the Oberoi was surrounded by soldiers.

"We sent a couple people out and they did confirm that, and we are far enough to feel safe but close enough to still hear what's going on," Testolini said.

Canadians looking for information on relatives in Mumbai can contact the Department of Foreign Affairs at 1-800-387-3124 from inside Canada or call 613-996-8885 collect from other countries.

"We'll just lay low until at least it's daylight and the dust starts to settle."

A little-known organization calling itself the Deccan Mujahedeen has claimed responsibility for the attacks in e-mails to several media outlets, according to one Indian report. Officials said police killed four suspected attackers in two incidents as they tried to flee in cars, while nine others were arrested.

Two other gunmen have reportedly been killed at the Taj Mahal and another nine captured, according to officials.

Other sites attacked in the port city formerly known as Bombay included the crowded Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station and Leopold's restaurant, a Mumbai landmark, as well as the city's Cama and Albless Hospital and G.T. Hospital.

A man injured in one of the attacks in Mumbai leans on a railing. ((Associated Press))

It appears the "maximum number of casualties" occurred in the train station, located in the southern part of the city, as gunmen fired indiscriminately into crowds of commuters, freelance reporter Arun Asthhana told CBC News in an interview from the city.

Several men armed with rifles and grenades were still holed up at the station, Press Trust of India quoted the chief of the Mumbai railway police, A.K. Sharma, as saying.

At least three top Indian police officers — including the chief of the anti-terror squad — were among those killed, said senior police official A.N. Roy.

Government officials said they are still investigating exactly how the attacks could have occurred.

"These things all happened at one time and happened in this manner," said Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who was shown on BBC. 

"They have attacked the hotels, they have attacked the hospital, they have targeted the railway station, so it seems that there is a big conspiracy."

Witness: gunmen 'wanted foreigners'

A witness at the Taj Mahal said gunmen were seeking American and British tourists.

"They wanted anyone with British or American passports," the witness, who said he was from London and was in India on business, told the NDTV news channel. He had smoke stains on his face.

"They wanted foreigners."

A British citizen who was dining at the Oberoi hotel also said gunmen who struck there singled out Britons and Americans.

"They were talking about British and Americans specifically," Alex Chamberlain told Sky News television. He said a gunman who appeared to be in his early 20s ushered 30 to 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and ordered them to put their hands in the air.

"There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: 'Where are you from?' and he said he's from Italy and they said 'Fine' and they left him alone. And I thought: 'Fine, they're going to shoot me if they ask me anything' — and thank God they didn't," he said.

A Japanese man is reportedly dead, while nine Europeans have been admitted to Bombay Hospital, according to hospital officials speaking on condition of anonymity. Three of the Europeans were said to be in critical condition with gunshot wounds.

All were victims of attacks at the Taj Mahal, the officials said.

A police officer gives water to an injured child at a hospital in Mumbai. ((Reuters))

There are no reports of Canadians killed or injured in the attacks, and all consular officials in the city are accounted for, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a statement issued early Wednesday evening.

"These cowardly attacks are truly appalling," the statement said.

Brampton-Springdale MP Ruby Dhalla told CBC News on Wednesday evening that she had spoken to several friends living in Mumbai who reported that the city was completely shut down.

"It is a really serious situation and all of them are in complete shock as to how this has transpired over night," she said.

In addition to attacks at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi, Dhalla said, she heard the JW Marriott was also under siege.

No American casualties have been reported, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said, adding that officials are still checking.

Several European legislators were among those inside the Taj Mahal. The group is part of a delegation visiting the city ahead of an upcoming European Union-India summit.

Sajjad Karim told Britain's Press Association news agency that he and several other lawmakers were barricaded inside the hotel.

"I was in the lobby of the hotel when gunmen came in and people started running," he told the press association by phone from the basement of the hotel.

"A gunman just stood there spraying bullets around, right next to me. I managed to turn away and I ran into the hotel kitchen," he said.

Indian police officers prepare to take position at the site of an attack in the Colaba area of Mumbai. ((Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images))

"It was really scary. It was like the sound of loud crackers, not one but several. We just ran out of there," said Janice Sequeira, a tourist who was also at the Taj Mahal restaurant.

Leopold's restaurant was riddled with bullet holes and there were bloodstains on the floor and shoes left by fleeing customers, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

Mumbai, a sprawling city of some 12 million inhabitants, has been repeatedly targeted by attacks blamed on Muslim militants and underworld figures since 1993.

The most recent previous attacks occurred in July 2006, when a series of co-ordinated bomb blasts on commuter trains during the city's morning rush hour killed nearly190 people and injured more than 700.

With files from the Associated Press and Reuters