“Whatever measures are necessary” to track down those responsible for the Mumbai attacks will be taken, has vowed Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister (photo).
He also said that the perpetrators were based “outside the country” and that India would not tolerate “neighbours” who provide a haven to militants targeting it.
Late on Wednesday, at least seven sites were targeted by gunmen, killing at least 101 people and injuring 300.
People were trapped in a hotel from which flames were seen rising from the roof.
In order to free hostages at the hotel, the Oberoi-Trident, elite commandos had begun an operation, reports said. Dozens of people are said to remain trapped or held hostage there.
Between 20 and 30 people might still be hostages at the hotel, said a home ministry official, while the owner said that some 200 people were trapped inside.
Earlier, police said hostages had been freed from another luxury hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace, even though explosions and gunfire were still being heard by witnesses outside.
At a Jewish centre, a stand-off continues, as an Israeli rabbi and his family are believed to have been taken hostage.
One militant reportedly phoned local TV from the centre, offering to negotiate over the release of hostages.
Other developments :
– After reports that gunmen had arrived in Mumbai by boat, the Indian navy said it was searching ships off the west coast
– A British national, a German, a Japanese man and an Italian are also among the deceased
– Blamed for past bombings in India, the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba, denied any role in the attacks.
The government “will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the safety and security of our citizens”, said Mr Singh in a televised address.
He also described the attacks as “well-planned and well-orchestrated… intended to create a sense of panic by choosing high profile targets and indiscriminately killing foreigners”.
Saying that the perpetrators were “based outside the country”, he added that they “had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country”.
In the past, India has complained that attacks on its soil have been carried out by groups based in Pakistan, even though relations between the two countries have improved in recent years and Pakistani leaders were swift to condemn the latest attacks.
Until investigations were finished no one should be blamed, said Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is in New Delhi for talks.
“Our experience in the past tells us that we should not jump to conclusions”, he told Dawn television.
US president Bush called Mr Singh to offer his condolences and support, amid international condemnation of the attacks.
The city’s main commuter train stations, a hospital and a restaurant popular with tourists are among the sites targeted late on Wednesday by gunmen, using grenades and automatic weapons.
14 police officers, 81 Indian nationals and six foreigners have been killed, police said. They added that four suspected terrorists have also been killed and nine arrested.
Earlier, local television was told by state police chief AN Roy that hostages held by the gunmen at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, one of Mumbai’s most famous hotels, had been freed.
Civilians could be seen running from the hotel, some with suitcases, said witnesses. Ambulances were also reported to be arriving.
But since that, the situation has become very confused, said the BBC’s Mark Dummett. The sounds of explosions and gunfire have been heard from within the hotel, which suggested that the siege is not over yet.
Indian commandos had been seen entering the hotels earlier in the day, but there was little detail on the operation.
Earlier eyewitness reports from the hotels suggested that the attackers were singling out British and American passport holders. If the reports are true, it implies an Islamist motive, attacks inspired or co-ordinated by al-Qaeda, said BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner.
A previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attacks, though it could be a hoax or assumed name for another group.