Gunmen have killed at least 101 people, wounded 287 and are holding several Westerners hostage after a series of coordinated terrorist attacks Wednesday night against luxury hotels, tourist destinations and a train station in the Indian financial capital of Mumbai, Indian officials said.
Police battled the gunmen for hours after the first attacks began, A.N. Roy, a senior police officer, said.
"The terrorists have used automatic weapons and, in some places, grenades have been lobbed. The encounters are still going on and we are trying to overpower them," Roy told the Associated Press.
Hours after the attacks began large flames and plumes of smoke were seen billowing from the Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the primary targets of their attacks and a local landmark built in 1903. There was no official word about how many people remained in the hotel. At the outset of the attacks, visitors were told to remain in their rooms and lock their doors.
As fighting continued into the early hours Thursday morning, officials said police had killed four suspects and arrested nine more.
Pradeep Indulkar, a senior official at the Maharashtra state Home Ministry said 101 people were killed and 287 injured.The toll of dead and wounded had risen steadily since the attacks began.
A little known group Deccan Mujahadeen sent messages to media outlets, Wednesday, claiming responsibility for the attacks. Mumbai has been the scene of previous terror attacks, often blamed on Muslim militants, including a series of blasts in July 2007 that killed 187 people.
Armed with AK-47 rifles and grenades, terrorists attacked Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi hotels as well as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station in southern Mumbai and Leopold's restaurant, a Mumbai landmark.
"Me and my friend escaped down the fire exit, but I think they took some more people upstairs. They were trying to get to the roof. About 15 people, I think about half were foreigners. Two gunmen, young boys, maybe 20 to 25 years old. There was a lot of smoke, they came from the restaurant and they took us up the stairs," witness Rakesh Patel told NDTV.
"They had bombs, there was something, there was a lot of smoke, I guess there were bombs of some sort, yeah. They wanted anyone with British or American passports. Say anyone who had an American or British passports, they wanted to know, so I guess they were after foreigners, yeah, I guess," he said.
It was not clear at which hotel Patel was located, but local officials have confirmed foreign hostages were taken at both the Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi hotels.
Officials also confirmed that India's anti-terror chief Hemant Karkare was killed in a shooting with gunmen.
Terror Attacks in Mumbai
The two buildings are two of the oldest luxury hotels in Mumbai, dating back to the British Raj.
Metal detectors were installed at the Taj Mahal Palace months ago and cars are routinely checked for explosives.
"I am currently at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. About an hour or so ago, I was in the main lobby. There was some shooting that started taking place outside. People started to run in," Sajjad Karim, Conservative Party member of the European Parliament, told the BBC.
"We all moved through the lobby in the opposite direction and another gunman then appeared towards where we were moving. He started firing then immediately in our direction," he said.
Police killed at least two of the terrorists and have launched a commando operation at the Oberoi hotel, according to the Times of India.
Firing was also reported near the Maharashtra State Assembly building in South Mumbai.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has condemned the attacks in Mumbai and pledged the Maharashtra state government his full assistance.
Commandos were on standby and the national disaster response force unit is being rushed to Mumbai, the ministry of home affairs officials said.
The U.S. State Department condemned the attacks "in the strongest terms" and is working to issue a warden statement notifying Americans in the area. The department has not yet confirmed if any Americans were killed, wounded or taken hostage.
"Secretary[Condoleezza] Rice has been briefed on the attacks in Mumbai and is monitoring the situation closely. The Secretary will be reaching out to officials at the US Embassy in New Delhi and at the consulate in Mumbai. She will be reaching to Indian government officials as well. The situation on the ground is extremely fluid," a State Department official told ABC News.
President-Elect Barack Obama also criticized the attacks, saying "we stand with the people of India."
"President-Elect Obama strongly condemns today's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and his thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the people of India," said Brooke Anderson, Obama's transition national security spokesperson. "These coordinated attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of terrorism. The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks. We stand with the people of India, whose democracy will prove far more resilient than the hateful ideology that led to these attacks," she said
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Additional reporting by ABC News' Karen Russo in New Dehli as well as Kirit Radia and Pierre Thomas in Washington DC.