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November 29, 2008

Last Gunmen Dead in Mumbai

POLITICS - The 60-hour terror rampage that killed at least 195 people in India's financial capital of Mumbai ended today when commandos killed the last three gunmen inside luxury Oberoi hotel while it was engulfed in flames. 295+ people were wounded in the violence that started when heavily armed militants attacked 10 sites across Mumbai on Wednesday night/early Thursday morning. At least 20 soldiers and police were among the dead.

Orange flames and black smoke engulfed the landmark 565-room Taj Mahal hotel after dawn Saturday as Indian forces ended the siege there in a hail of gunfire, just hours after elite commandos stormed a Jewish centre and found at least eight hostages dead. The militants killed 18 foreigners including six Americans and two Canadians. The dead also included Germans, Israelis and nationals from Britain, Italy, Japan, China, Thailand, Australia and Singapore.

By Saturday morning the death toll was at 195, the deadliest attack in India since 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai killed 257 people. But officials said the toll from the three days of carnage was likely to rise as more bodies were brought out of the hotels.

THE MILITANTS

A group called Deccan Mujahideen, which alludes to a region in southern India traditionally ruled by Muslim kings, claimed responsibility for the attack. Indian forces captured one of the gunmen, a Pakistani national called Mohammad Ajmal Qasam.

The attackers were well-prepared, carrying large bags of almonds to keep up their energy during a long siege. One backpack found contained 400 rounds of ammunition.

The gunmen had sophisticated equipment and used "GPS, mobile and satellite phones to communicate." Some of the evidence suggests the terrorists were working in cooperation with terrorists across the border in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has promised aid in trying to track down the terrorists.

THE COMMANDOS

Adoring crowds surrounded six buses carrying weary, unshaven Indian commandos, shaking their hands and giving them flowers. The commandos, dressed in black fatigues, said they had been ordered not to talk about the operation, but said they had not slept since the ordeal began. One Indian soldier sat sipping a bottle of water and holding a pink rose someone had given him.

In the southern city of Bangalore, black clad commandos formed an honor guard for the flag-draped coffin of Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was killed in the fighting at the Taj Mahal hotel.

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE

In the United States, President Barack Obama said he was closely monitoring the situation. "These terrorists who targeted innocent civilians will not defeat India's great democracy, nor shake the will of a global coalition to defeat them," he said in a statement.

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