Canadians among Mumbai hostages: Indian officials
Updated Thu. Nov. 27 2008 9:27 AM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Indian officials have confirmed Canadians are among the hostages being held by suspected Islamic militants in Mumbai, India.
Co-ordinated attacks in at least 10 locations across the city left 104 people dead and more than 300 injured Wednesday night.
The Associated Press reported Thursday morning that Deputy Home Secretary Bitan Srimali confirmed Canadians, along with Americans, British, Italian, Swedes, Yemenis, New Zealanders, Spaniards, Turks, Israelis and a Singapore national were among those being held.
Neither Foreign Affairs in Ottawa nor the High Commission in Delhi have confirmed that Canadians were being held, however.
On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs said it believed no Canadians had been injured or killed in the attacks.
However, India's NDTV spoke with a travel agent who claimed that five of his Canadian clients were trapped inside the Oberoi Trident hotel. That report had not been confirmed.
Canadians concerned about relatives in the Mumbai-area can call:
Foreign Affairs hotline - in Canada: 1-613-996-8885
Foreign Affairs hotline - outside Canada: 1-800-387-3124
Meanwhile, tension and fear continued to grip Mumbai on Thursday as hostages, as well as dead bodies, began to emerge from the Oberoi Trident luxury hotel as Indian commandos worked to free captives -- many of them believed to be foreigners -- after a series of attacks on Wednesday.
Militants still appeared to be occupying the Oberai and a number of other locations in the city.
The suspected Islamic militant members of a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen staged a co-ordinated attack, with groups of armed men invading two five-star hotels, a busy restaurant popular with foreigners, a train station and Jewish centre, along with five other locations.
They appeared to be targeting foreigners, with some reports claiming the militants were seeking British and U.S. citizens.
Phil Smith, a reporter with Reuters, was outside the popular Oberoi Trident Thursday morning.
He told CTV's Canada AM that some hostages had been released and a military siege was underway -- and that there appeared to be a lot of hostages still inside the hotel.
"A group of commandos went into this hotel at about 4:30 p.m. this afternoon and it looked like they were about to start some sort of operation and that looks like it's underway right now," Smith said.
"Basically it's a series of explosions and gunfire...there's definitely something going on."
He said the sun was beginning to set in Mumbai, and it was likely that Indian authorities were attempting to have the hotel cleared before dark.
At the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, another landmark in Mumbai, explosions and exchanges of gunfire could be heard on Thursday, Smith said.
"It looks like you might have a situation there where the hostages might be out but some of the militants may still be in the hotel and the army is clearing them out. We don't know that for sure, but that's the best guess," he said.
CTV's South Asia Bureau Chief Paul Workman, reporting from Delhi, said Mumbai is used to violence, but not on this scale.
"There have been a lot of attacks in the city ...for many years. I think it will bounce back but I think the country itself is in shock that people using relatively crude weapons -- grenades and handguns -- could essentially take the whole city hostage and cause so much havoc."
He said there appears to have been no warning of the attacks, which most experts believe were carried out by a domestic terror group rather than al Qaeda operatives.
A similar group, the so-called Indian Mujahideen, has carried out its own attacks over the past year, though mostly using bombs rather than armed attackers, and not specifically against tourists, as in Wednesday's attacks, Workman said.
"Nobody seems to know very much about this group, although the feeling is that these are Indian Muslims, part of a largely radicalized section of the community," Workman said.
"Here in India there are a lot of upset and angry Muslims here, it is a minority, it feels discriminated against and that there is great economic disparity." http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20081127/mumbai_follow_081127/20081127?hub=TopStories