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Horror over Mumbai attacks

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AFP

A foreigner who was held hostage by gunmen walks away following his release from the Trident Oberoi hotel in Mumbai on Thursday. 

LONDON - World leaders expressed anger and horror Thursday after Islamist militant attacks in Mumbai left more than 100 people dead, as fears grew over foreign hostages.

While Indian army commandos battled gunmen who launched the attacks on luxury hotels and other targets in India's financial hub, European governments were reportedly making plans to evacuate their nationals.

An Australian, an Italian, a German and a Japanese businessman were among the nine confirmed dead - while Americans, Israelis, Canadians, a Singaporean and a Jewish rabbi were said to be among those still held hostage.

Almost 300 people have been reported wounded in the attacks, which have been claimed by a group calling itself the Deccan Mujahedeen.

"No negotiations or talks have started with the terrorists," Maharashtra state deputy chief minister RR Patil told reporters Thursday afternoon, adding that TV signals to both hotels have been cut to prevent the hostage-takers getting wind of any operations.

With 200 people believed trapped in one hotel alone, anger was mixed with concern that Westerners had been sought as hostages.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent Indian Premier Manmohan Singh a message assuring that "the UK stands solidly with his government as they respond, and to offer all necessary help".

"These outrageous attacks in Mumbai will be met with a vigorous response," he said.

The US State Department called the attacks "horrific" and US President-elect Barack Obama said they showed the need for the United States to work with other nations to "root out and destroy terrorist networks".

Underscoring fears of renewed tensions with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, Singh said those behind the attacks were based "outside the country" and warned "neighbours" not to provide a haven to anti-India militants.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, whose country has seen an upsurge of Islamist attacks, "stressed the need for taking strict measures to eradicate terrorism and extremism from the region".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the violence was "totally unacceptable".

The European Union expressed "horror and indignation" after European parliament members were caught up in the carnage.

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