Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai attacks: troops storm hotels

From The Australian by Bruce Loudon and agencies November 27, 2008:

INDIAN commandos have stormed two hotels hit by co-ordinated Islamist terrorist attacks in Mumbai overnight that targeted tourists and left at least 80 people dead.

More than 900 people, including two Australians, have been injured in India's financial capital after one of the biggest attacks since 9/11, targeting the city's luxury hotels and taking hostage scores of foreigners. Officials said that the terrorists, firing high velocity rifles, had swept through some of India's most famous hotels seeking American and British as well as other tourists.

At least 12 targets across Mumbai were attacked in the co-ordinated onslaught, which killed the city's two top Anti-Terrorist Squad officials. Among the targets attacked were the Taj Mahal and Oberoi (Trident) hotels, all of which were crowded with foreigners including Australians. Officials said that at least 20 Australians - including a trade delegation from NSW - were caught up in the drama and there were reports that two Australians had been wounded in the attacks.

The attacks started shortly after midnight local time with assaults on local train stations, hospitals and the hotels. As the extent of the attacks became apparent, units of the Indian army were called out and deployed across the city.

Officials said four terrorists had been killed while fleeing two incidents in cars, while another nine had been arrested. A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for the assaults, the Press Trust of India reported.The focus of the co-ordinated assaults was the two upscale hotels, with gunmen taking foreign guests hostage and exchanging fire with anti-terrorist commando units.

Commandos stormed the Taj today, apparently leading to the release of guests inside, with television footage showing people being shepherded out of the building. Shortly afterwards, the upper floors of the landmark hotel became engulfed in flames and huge plumes of smoke billowed out from its distinctive red dome. It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze or whether the gunmen were still inside.

At the Oberoi the military reportedly entered the building and a large explosion was heard shortly afterwards. Another hostage situation was unfolding at Cama Hospital, CNN's sister network in India, CNN-IBN reported.

One of those killed during the Taj operation was Mumbai's Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare. At least 11 police were killed across the city, CNN-IBN said. A top government official in New Delhi told The Australian today that the attacks were believed to be the work of Islamic terrorists linked to al-Qa'ida, and said he believed they may be related to local elections now taking place in the disputed territory of Kashmir...

... Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the attacks, which Interior Minister Shivraj Patil described as a “big conspiracy.” The US State Department voiced shock at the “horrific” events in Mumbai, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the attacks “outrageous.” India has witnessed a wave of coordinated attacks in recent months.

and from JPost.com Nov 27, 2008 by DAVID HOROVITZ:

Chabad fears for safety of its Mumbai rabbi

Chabad-Lubavitch is asking people to say prayers for its director in Mumbai, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, and his wife Rivka Holtzberg, whose whereabouts it has been unable to establish following Wednesday's terrorist attacks in the city.

"Pray that we should hear good news," urged a Chabad spokesman, Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin...

...there had been "several reports that shots were fired in the vicinity of the Chabad House, and unconfirmed reports on CNN of casualties ...." ... The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem confirmed the possibility that hostages had been taken in the Chabad House area, Israel Radio reported.

...The Foreign Ministry repeated at 2 am that it had no reports of Israeli casualties in the attacks. Runyan said that the Israeli consulate in Mumbai also had no reports of Israeli casualties.

... "People are urged to say Psalms for Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma and Rivka bas Yehudis, and anyone affected by the tragedy."
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