The Oberoi Hotel and the Trident next door witnessed a fierce gun battle for over three hours on Thursday evening as National Security Guards (NSG), army personnel and police commandos tried to flush out the terrorists and rescue hostages.
Around 9.15 pm, the marine commandos pulled out of Oberoi. Defence spokesperson Captain M. Nambiar said the NSG could handle the rest of the operations.
The exchange of fire left at least one person and two marine commandos injured. One of them is critical but out of danger, said defence spokesperson Capt M Nambiar. According to an ATS officer, two NSG guards and 25 army personnel were injured.
Thirty-nine people were rescued on Thursday evening. The security personnel cleared one floor after the other.
Twenty-seven cabin crewmembers of Lufthansa airlines trapped in the hotel since Wednesday also had a narrow escape though one of them suffered injuries.
Major General R.K. Hooda, GOC, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa area, said there were 10 to 12 terrorists — five or six at the Taj, two or three at Nariman House and the remaining at Oberoi. “We suspect there were two militants in the room where hand grenades were lobbed and a fire broke out,” said Hooda. “However, this can be confirmed only after operation is over.”
Actor Ashish Chowdhary was waiting outside Oberoi since his sister (he did not wish to reveal her name) was trapped inside since Wednesday night.
Activity at Oberoi started at 6 am on Thursday with nearly 300 NSGs entering the building. Security personnel, gauging that the terrorists were trying to buy time, were rescuing hostages on one hand and engaging terrorists in exchange of fire on the other to exhaust their ammunition.
Outside, crowds gathered to witness the battle cheered marine commandos entering the hotel with chants of ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’ and ‘Jai Hind’.
Around 2.50 pm, four hand grenades were lodged inside the hotel and the NSG and terrorists exchanged fire behind Oberoi. NSG personnel checked each room and opened windows to signal to their colleagues below that the room was sanitised. At around 3.35, security forces zeroed in on the terrorists’ location. They were hiding in the corner most room on the last but third floor of the building. Nearly 28 rounds were fired in a span of 45 minutes.