Dozens of people were being kept hostage by gunmen in India's financial capital Mumbai today, more than 12 hours after coordinated attacks on luxury hotels, popular restaurants, a rail terminus and an ultra-orthodox Jewish centre.
The Maharashtra state police chief, AN Roy, said the hostage situation had ended at the Taj Mahal hotel but there were still apparently hostages in the Oberoi hotel.
The death toll has risen to 101 with more than 300 people injured. Police and gunmen exchanged heavy gunfire early this morning. Several people managed to flee the Taj hotel, the roof of which was destroyed after heavy fires raged through the night.
"People who were held up there [Taj hotel], they have all been rescued," Roy told the NDTV news channel. "But there are guests in the rooms, we don't know how many."
"That is why the operation is being conducted more sensitively to ensure there are no casualties of innocent people."
At noon local time (6.30am GMT) two bodies covered with white sheets were wheeled out of the Taj hotel entrance and put in ambulances. During the night a series of explosions had rocked the building.
At the nearby Oberoi hotel, soldiers could be seen on the roof of neighboring buildings. A banner hanging out of one window read "Save us".
"We did not know anything, we just heard gunshots. It was a long night for us," said Nasim Desai, a South African visiting her family in India.
Indian television reported that a Singaporean woman had called her embassy and asked Indian security forces not to attack the Oberoi or the terrorists would kill her.
Officials at Bombay hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a Japanese man had died there and nine Europeans had been admitted, three of them in a critical condition with gunshot wounds. All had come from the Taj Mahal hotel, the officials said.
Gunmen seized the Mumbai headquarters of an ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group, Chabad Lubavitch. Indian commandos surrounded the building this morning and witnesses said gunfire could be heard from inside.
A spokesman for the Lubavitch movement in New York, Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, said attackers "stormed the Chabad house" in Mumbai.
"It seems that the terrorists commandeered a police vehicle which allowed them easy access to the area of the Chabad house and threw a grenade at a gas pump nearby," he said.
The home secretary for Maharashtra state, Bipin Shrimali, said four suspects were killed when they tried to flee in cars, while four more gunmen were reported killed at the Taj Mahal hotel. Officials said nine more had been arrested but gave no further details.
Mumbai has frequently been targeted in terrorist attacks blamed on Islamist militants, including a series of bombings in July 2006 that killed 187 people.
An Indian media report said a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen had claimed responsibility for the latest attacks in emails to several media outlets. There was no way to verify the claim.
Mumbai was today turned into a ghost town, with the normally chaotic and crowded streets eerily still.
The only movement was by police, army and commando units making their way through labyrinthine back alleys. The state government ordered schools, colleges and the Bombay stock exchange to close for the day.
Many Mumbai residents have experienced similar violence before, either in the form of bombings or gunfights between mobsters and police. But no one was prepared for the running gun battles or the coordinated execution of last night's violence.
"Bombay's streets are used to violence," said Dinesh Bhandari, 41. "Tomorrow we'll be back to work."