At least six foreigners were among those killed in the attacks, said Ramesh Tayde, a senior police officer, according to the Reuters news agency.
The attacks largely occurred in the affluent southern quarters that are the heart of the financial district of this city of 15 million people. Hospitals were overwhelmed and sent out appeals for blood donations. Police said parts of the city remained under siege as of dawn Thursday, including a building that houses the ultra-Orthodox Jewish outreach organization Chabad Lubavitch, where a group of people was being held hostage. Guests were still trapped inside the 36-floor Oberoi Trident hotel, possibly as hostages. The third hotel to be attacked was the Ramada, to the north.
The identity of the attackers was not clear. A group calling itself the Deccan Mujaheddin asserted responsibility for the attacks in the e-mails. Intelligence officials said they thought it was a new group and were unsure of its aims or identity. The name apparently refers to the Deccan Plateau, an area that spans eight states and covers much of central and southern India. The term "mujaheddin" suggests the attackers are Muslim extremists.
R.R. Patil, minister of internal security for the state of Maharashtra, said the gunmen came from the sea about 9 p.m. Wednesday, and a boat laden with explosives was later seized by police. About 9:25 p.m., eyewitnesses told reporters, two men with automatic weapons started firing outside the popular Leopold Cafe, after which the attackers moved toward the Taj hotel, firing at random as some of them moved to the city's main train station. Local trains were suspended after a high-security alert, and the police cordoned off the area, which is usually packed with night revelers at street food vendors and cafes. The hotel evacuated many guests, some of whom could be seen wheeling out their luggage, while others fled down the fire escape in bathrobes.
Witnesses told reporters that the gunmen initially asked for Americans and Britons. "They were young boys, maybe 20, 25 years old. They basically were saying they wanted anyone with British and American passports," said a Briton quoted by the Times Now television channel. "There were about 15 people, about half of which were foreigners. We went to the 18th floor. It became very smoky, and we escaped and ran down the stairs. They had guns, one machine gun and one rifle gun. They were in jeans and T-shirts. Just normal, casual."