THE ATTACKS IN MUMBAI…. Terrorist attacks are not, tragically, entirely uncommon in India, especially this year, but the events in Mumbai have been on another level of magnitude.

Indian police commandos rescued some hostages on Thursday as standoffs continued against heavily armed militants who a day earlier had swept into Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, in a shocking series of coordinated and bloody attacks.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a televised address that the attackers probably had “external linkages” — the first official indication that the authorities were likely to blame outsiders.

The hooded gunmen, firing automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades, attacked at least two luxury hotels, the city’s largest train station, a Jewish center, a movie theater and a hospital.

The Mumbai police said Thursday afternoon that the attacks killed at least 101 people and wounded at least 314. It was not immediately clear how many hostages were freed in the commando operation or how many were still being held.

This year, the more routine terrorist attacks in India have featured bombs left in public areas. The coordinated, well-orchestrated attacks that began yesterday were executed by young men with machine guns, who brazenly made no effort to hide their identity. The LA Times speculated that the attacks “required a previously unseen degree of reconnaissance and planning,” leading some experts to suspect “the likely involvement of experienced commanders.”

A group calling itself the Deccan Mujaheddin sent an email to Indian news outlets claiming responsibility, but it seems no one has heard of the group and it’s unclear if their message is legitimate.

There are, not surprisingly, questions about a possible al Qaeda connection, but many are skeptical — al Qaeda doesn’t usually take hostages.

As for the attackers’ targets, Brian Genchur, a spokesman for a private intelligence group, noted, “As opposed to trying to rile up extremist elements in India’s Hindu and Muslim communities, the attacks in Mumbai are going after the country’s tourism industry, spreading fear to Western tourists and businesspeople who frequent India, thereby hitting at India’s economic lifelines.” Indeed, Christine Fair, a senior political scientist and a South Asia expert at the RAND Corporation ,added, “When one thinks of the Indian global elite, one thinks of Mumbai. It’s the financial city. It’s the entertainment city. It’s India’s New York.”

The most recent report suggests that Indian police had killed six of the suspected attackers and captured nine.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.