Indian security forces have assaulted a besieged Jewish centre in Mumbai where heavily-armed militants are believed to be holed up in, along with about 10 Israeli hostages according to local media reports.  

Snipers in buildings around the headquarters of the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch began laying down cover fire early Friday while a helicopter hovered overhead, dropping eight or nine black-clad commandos on to the roof.

Commandos also dropped "thunder flashes" or smoke bombs to cover their assault.

The fighting occurred after grenades were tossed from the building towards anyone approaching it. That happened three times in four hours.

The assault began at dawn, following a tense night that saw six trucks full of soldiers surround the building.

The BBC is reporting that the commandos are slowly going floor-by-floor in the five-storey building to avoid killing any hostages.

But more than two hours after the commandos entered the building, there was no word on the health of the hostages.

Some hostages escaped from the building on Thursday -- including the two-year-old son of a rabbi -- but it was believed that more remained inside, along with an unknown number of heavily-armed terrorists.

Mumbai Police Commissioner Hassan Gafoor told reporters in India Friday that fighting was nearly at an end.

The Times of India reported earlier that in a first, India was refusing to negotiate for the hostages' release. Instead the country is following the lead of Israel and Russia, who do not negotiate with terrorists in hostage situations.

Indian commandos appear to have regained control of two luxury hotels in Mumbai. At least three more terrorists were killed in the room-by-room operation.

Indian television station CNN-IBN said the commandos "encountered stiff resistance from the terrorists who were heavily armed and well entrenched inside."

Hostages were taken out of the hotels all night by soldiers and fires in the building were put out by early Friday morning.

A deadly attack

Coordinated attacks by a heavily-armed terrorist group Wednesday night in at least 10 locations in Mumbai have left at least 119 people dead and 288 injured.

Earlier on Thursday, reporters and witnesses described hearing gunfire and explosions near the Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels, which were main targets of the terrorists.

There was also word that eight hostages had been freed from the Mumbai headquarters of a Jewish outreach group that was invaded by militants Wednesday night.

Witness have said that the terrorists were specifically targeting Americans and Britons in the attacks, which took place at the two hotels, a restaurant popular with foreigners, a train station and Jewish centre, and five other locations.

The previously-unknown group Deccan Mujahedeen have claimed responsibility for the attack but many security experts have called the group a red herring meant to throw investigators off track.

M.J. Gohel, a security expert in London, told CTV Newsnet "The Deccan Mujahedeen has never been heard of before, they could easily have called themselves the Toronto Mujahedeen or the London Mujahedeen or whatever."

Indian officials have hinted that they believe the attackers are from the Indian Mujahedeen, an Islamist terror group that has already killed over 100 people in India this year.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has suggested the terrorists were supported by elements outside of the country.

"It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks, was based outside the country, (and) had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the financial capital of the country," he said.

Pakistan has condemned the attacks but warned India of accusing it of being behind them, saying doing so would "destroy all the goodwill" between the nuclear-armed rivals.

There have been numerous reports that the terrorists arrived via boat, and India seized two Pakistani vessels Thursday.

Six Canadians are believed to be among hostages still being held by terrorists and trapped in locations throughout Mumbai.

Canada's foreign affairs minister confirmed Thursday that two Canadians were injured in the deadly terrorist attacks.

'Despicable' attacks

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement Thursday calling the attacks "despicable and cowardly" and saying Canada condemns the violence.

He said Canada is supporting India in the fight against terrorism and Canada is working with Indian authorities to find and assist Canadians who may be affected by the attacks.

Earlier Thursday, Cannon confirmed Canadians were staying at the targeted hotels, but he provided few details.

Cannon also called the attacks "despicable" and said such violence only strengthens Canada's resolve to combat terror.

He said he spoke to India's foreign affairs minister Thursday morning.

"I relayed to him on behalf of the people of Canada my sincere condolences for those injured or killed in the barbaric Mumbai terror attacks," Cannon said.

"Canada stands united with India to combat all forms of terrorism. These attacks have strengthened our resolve to work together for the mutual security and prosperity of our people."

He said all of Canada's diplomatic staff in Mumbai are accounted for.

The Associated Press reported that Deputy Home Secretary Bitan Srimali confirmed Canadians, Americans, British, Italian, Swedes, Yemenis, New Zealanders, Spaniards, Turks, Israelis and a Singapore national were among those being held.

Canadians concerned about relatives in the Mumbai-area can call:

  • Foreign Affairs hotline - in Canada: 1-613-996-8885 (collect calls are accepted)
  • Foreign Affairs hotline - outside Canada: 1-800-387-3124

Maj.Gen. R.K. Huda told New Delhi Television that between 10 and 12 gunmen are hunkered down in the Oberoi Trident and the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, and the Jewish centre.

Tension and fear continued to grip Mumbai on Thursday as hostages, as well as dead bodies, began to emerge from the Oberoi Trident luxury hotel as Indian commandos worked to free captives.

CTV's South Asia Bureau Chief Paul Workman, reporting from Delhi, said Mumbai is used to violence, but not on this scale.

"There have been a lot of attacks in the city ...for many years. I think it will bounce back but I think the country itself is in shock that people using relatively crude weapons -- grenades and handguns -- could essentially take the whole city hostage and cause so much havoc."