Hostages say deaths from Mumbai police error, hotels re-open .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} Guests seized by gunmen last month in a Mumbai hotel were given instructions by police that may have led to more people dying, the BBC reported on Sunday. Two luxury hotels that were stormed by Islamist militants re-opened. (UPDATED)

Police told a group hiding in the Taj Mahal Palace hotel that it was safe to leave the building, a survivor told the BBC.

But members of the group were shot and killed by militant gunmen as they were making their way out.

The senior policeman in charge of the operation in the hotel has denied the allegations against his officers.

At least 179 people were killed in Mumbai last month in a militant attack, which India says was carried out by Islamist militants from Pakistan. Nine of the alleged gunmen were killed, and one is in police custody.

Two of the most high-profile targets were the sleek, sea-front Oberoi and another luxury hotel, the majestic, 105-year-old historic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower.

A prominent Mumbai gynecologist, Dr Prashant Mangeshikar, was trapped in the Taj Mahal hotel along with hundreds of other guests as gunmen stormed into the building, firing indiscriminately.

Terrified, he and others barricaded themselves into a room and waited.

Eventually, in the early hours of the morning, police officers made it through to where they were hiding and told people it was safe to leave the hotel because the gunmen were cornered on another floor.

Some went ahead but Dr Mangeshikar held back. "I was a little suspicious that the police were actually sending these guys down a different route where the terrorists were supposed to be," he said.

"I refused to move away and the people who ran ahead of me, about 20 or 30 of them, all of them died."

A dress designer from the city also told the BBC her aunt was shot dead and her cousin seriously wounded because they followed police instructions to try to leave.

Two luxury hotels that were stormed by Islamist militants re-opened amid tight security in Mumbai Sunday, less than a month after devastating attacks that rocked India’s financial and entertainment hub.

The Trident and Taj Mahal hotels received their first guests since the carnage, with staff praised for their dedication and resilience as others called for defiance in the face of extremism.

R.K. Krishna Kumar, vice-chairman of the Indian Hotels Company that runs the Taj, described employees as "heroes," while Trident Hotel’s president Rattan Keswani said he felt "deep pride" in all his staff.

The first guests arrived at the Trident for breakfast, which was followed by a sombre, 45-minute commemoration service in the lobby area with prayers from Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian leaders.

More than 1,000 regular clients and guests attended a private reception at the nearby Taj, before an evening reopening of 268 rooms and seven restaurants in the modern Tower wing.

Ratan Tata, head of the giant Tata Group conglomerate that owns the Taj, has vowed to restore the building to its former glory after it was ravaged by fire, bullets and grenades as gunmen fought commandos to the death.

Restoration work in the ornate "heritage" wing was expected to be finished by 2010, Kumar said.

The Trident suffered up to 100,000 dollars damage while the repair bill for the adjoining Oberoi hotel, which is yet to reopen, could reach 10 million dollars. No figures were available for the Taj.

About 100 of the Tridents 550 rooms were booked Sunday night while the Taj was 65 percent full.

Security was tight, with armed guards and barricades at both hotels. Roads around the Taj have been sealed since the shooting stopped on November 29, while access to the Trident is severely restricted.

Luggage scanners and metal detectors have been placed at entrances, while guests had their identification checked and were frisked.