The crisis in Mumbai appeared to ease early Friday as Indian commandos scoured through two charred luxury hotels, searching for survivors of the bands of gunmen who unleashed two days of chaos here. A third group of gunmen, the remnants of well-organized squads of attackers, apparently remained holed up in a Jewish community center.
Amid early indications that the sieges were ending, fears were growing that the toll would rise past the 119 known dead. Late Thursday, smoke was still rising from one of the hotels and people who escaped reported stepping around bodies. Dozens of people, perhaps many more, remained trapped in the hotels, though it was uncertain if any were being held hostage by the heavily armed assailants. The wounded numbered some 300.
There remained much mystery around the group behind the attack, unusual in its scale, its almost theatrical boldness and its targeting of locales frequented by wealthy Indians and foreigners.
Two men who claimed to be among the gunmen called local television stations, demanding to speak with the government. They complained about the treatment of Muslims in India and about Kashmir, the disputed territory over which India and Pakistan have fought two wars.
“Are you aware how many people have been killed in Kashmir?” a caller who identified himself as Imran asked. “Are you aware how your army has killed Muslims?”
The men said they were Indian, but the attacks appeared to ratchet up tensions in an already volatile region: In a televised speech, India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, blamed forces “based outside this country” for the attacks in a thinly veiled accusation that Pakistan was involved.