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Commandos search Taj Hotel room by room.



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2CN AM Commandos search Taj Hotel room by room

28/11/2008

Commandos search Taj Hotel room by room

AM - Friday, 28 November , 2008 08:09:00

TONY EASTLEY: South Asia correspondent Sally Sara is in Mumbai and close to the Taj Hotel. I spoke to her just a short time ago.

Sally Sara, when did you hear the last shots or signs of clashes between forces and the terrorists there?

SALLY SARA: The situation seems to have stabilised somewhat. We haven't heard large exchanges of fire probably for four or five hours now. At that time, which was late in the evening here in Mumbai, we heard a large volley of shots, automatic weapons. And then there were several explosions. Three or four shots also came over in the direction of where many journalists and onlookers were, which sent people dashing briefly for cover. But since then the situation appears to have been holding firm.

TONY EASTLEY: Sally is it your understanding that hostages or people, that is guests of the hotel, may still be inside?

SALLY SARA: We're yet to get the full all clear from the police commanders here but the local police that I've been speaking with have been saying that now really the commandos are going room by room to release anyone who's been hiding there, those hotel guests who've been trapped in their rooms; also obviously to search, to see if there are any more terrorists still in the hotel; and to check individually each room to make sure that it's clear. Also fears of booby-traps as well.

So that process takes a lot of time. We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of rooms in the hotel across two buildings plus kitchen areas and other areas where there are many, many places that people could seek refuge. So it's going to be a very long job.

The local police are saying here at the Taj Palace Hotel that they're now down to one attacker and they believe that he's wounded and they're now just trying to flush him out. And they think that they've got most of the hotel guests out but they can't give that final all clear.

TONY EASTLEY: Well that is good news. What's the situation with the fire that was burning so rapidly there?

SALLY SARA: That has subsided somewhat. That was near the roof the hotel, near the front of the old building. And particularly after we heard the large exchange of the fire, that blaze was really of quite a considerable size. There have been a number of fire trucks on the scene but obviously because of the

danger their ability to respond has been severely restricted. But it seems to have subsided a little bit which is also good news for any people that may still be in that area of the old wing of the hotel.

TONY EASTLEY: It's still some hours before sun up in Mumbai. What's the situation around the hotel at the moment? Are the streets quiet?

SALLY SARA: The streets are relatively quiet. The mood close to the hotel has become a little bit more relaxed in terms of the security presence and the access of people. People are still able to get within a couple of hundred metres of the front of the hotel. The police aren't being too strong in terms of you know, where they want to keep people back. So there are media crews; onlookers have been coming down to have a look.

Also some of the staff members I spoke with earlier, they were saying that the thing that has amazed them about this series of attacks, particularly at the Taj Palace, seem to be that the attackers appeared to have a very strong and detailed knowledge of the layout of the hotel. One employee I was speaking to said particularly in the kitchen and lobby areas they knew exactly where to go, where exits were, where linking hallways were, their way to get through the kitchens which are quite complicated. So they were really convinced that this attack had been extremely well planned.

TONY EASTLEY: Sally Sara our correspondent outside the Taj Hotel in Mumbai.

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