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Friday, November 28, 2008

Hostages freed from Mumbai hotel after terror ordeal

About 93 people, many of them foreigners, emerged from Mumbai's Trident/Oberoi hotel on Friday, more than 36 hours after gunmen stormed the building and took hostages, an AFP photographer said.

The group, some of whom were carrying luggage with Canadian flags on, were taken away in cars without speaking to reporters.

The guests, including one carrying a baby, were ushered on to waiting minibuses by police before being driven away, the photographer said.

Earlier, at least 17 commandos abseiled from a helicopter into the Jewish centre in Mumbai taken by Islamic militants, and explosions have been heard.

- Forces storm Jewish centre
- Abseiling from helicopters
- Some remain trapped

The centre was one of several targets in the city attacked by Islamic terrorists. Officials said hostages, including Israelis, were believed to be held in the building.

Witnesses said the first group of seven special forces soldiers crouched on the roof of the building as the helicopter returned to drop 10 more military personnel.

Intermittent loud explosions were heard from inside the building.

Seven hostages were rescued from the complex late on Thursday, Indian security officials said.

The building was one of at least 10 sites targeted by gunmen who launched coordinated attacks in India's financial capital on Wednesday evening.

Inside is a Jewish prayer and study centre run by the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch movement, offering drug prevention services as well as doubling up as a hostel for tourists and backpackers.

A cook at the centre told an Israeli newspaper how she escaped with its directors' two-year-old son.

Sandra Samuel, 44, told Haaretz she had barricaded herself in a first-floor room for 12 hours after the gunmen entered the building.

She only dared to peer outside when she heard the cries of a small child through the door.

"I just grabbed the baby and ran out,'' said Samuel, adding that the centre's caretaker Zakir Hussein, 22, who had been hiding with her, escaped with them.

It was unclear whether the directors were among those still being held inside.

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