M A I N   N E W S

200 still trapped in Oberoi hotel
Fighting continues at Nariman

Here’s Shivraj Patil: Terrorists left before I reached there...

“Before I could reach there, the terrorists who had attacked one of the hospitals, the Cama Hospital, had left and those who attacked the railway station had also left,” union home minister Shivraj Patil said. Patil was giving details to media about his visit to the city after terrorists struck. — PTI

Control room numbers set up by Ministry of External Affairs

n 91 11 2301 5300
91 11 2301 2113
n 91 11 2301 3537

Helplines: Taj 022-66574322, 022-66574372, 1800 111 825
Trident (Oberoi): 022-23890606

Mumbai, November 27
Mumbai continued to be under siege tonight despite a day-long operation by security forces to eliminate terrorists inside luxury Taj and Oberoi hotels. Some 200 persons remain trapped in the Oberoi amid blasts and exchange of gunfire in the aftermath of yesterday’s audacious terror strikes that has cost 127 lives.

Late in the night, there was a major fire in the Oberoi (Trident) hotel where about 200 people have been trapped and terrorists exploded grenades that set the roof ablaze. The other scene of action was at Nariman House, a Jewish residential complex, where some Israelis have been held hostage by some three-four terrorists.

The hand of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba is suspected in the worst terror attacks in the country but the outfit denied any involvement.

While all the hostages in the Taj were evacuated to safety, the situation in Trident worsened with the terrorists involved in a grim battle with security forces.

Guests being rescued from the fourth floor of the hotel.
Guests being rescued from the fourth floor of the hotel. — Reuters

There were heavy casualties among the staff in both the hotels with the Taj alone accounting for 17 of them. G-o-C Maharashtra R.H. Hooda said they had done a detailed search of the 395-room hotel, but declined to give numbers of terrorists holed up or those trapped. Among the dead were nine foreigners and 14 police personnel, including ATS chief Hemant Karkare and four other senior officers.

Security agencies have sought to blame the LeT, one of whose activists was captured alive in Trident. He is said to be Abu Ismail hailing from Faridkot in Pakistan. The terrorists numbering about 20-25 are believed to have landed on Mumbai shores after a mother vessel dropped them in three inflatable boats. Seven of them have been gunned down.

“Altogether there would be around 200 persons inside the Oberoi complex in Mumbai. We believe that not less than 100 persons are at the Oberoi side and not less than 100 persons inside the Trident side,” vice-chairman of Oberoi Hotels S.S. Mukherjee said.

The plush hotel is currently surrounded by Army and NSG commandos in order to launch an offensive to flush out the holed up terrorists and rescue hostages.

“We have definite information that the casualty of our staff is around five or six,” he said.

Putting last night’s occupancy at the hotel to be around 375-385, Mukherjee said the terrorists “have not gone down the basement and have only gone to the upper floors”. He said generally his other staff were safe and secure and that they were “very concerned about guests, dignitaries, employees and other staff who are trapped inside”.

“We have very little information about what is happening inside...what we can hear is that people are generally inside the room,” he said.

Meanwhile, according to National Security Guard (NSG) officials, the Taj Hotel is almost cleared of terrorists. The commandos are still conducting mopping-up operations.

The battle between the terrorists and the commandos has resulted in the death of three commandos. It is not clear how many of them have been injured. According to the NSG, many of the hostages came out with bloodstains and signs of injury.

In all there have been more than 25 explosions at the Taj hotel, according to television channels. So far it is not clear what set off the explosions though the terrorists were all armed with grenades.

Fire Department officials were valiantly trying to put out flames from outside, using step ladders. However, with the interiors barred to them, the fire was spreading through the carpeted corridors and air-conditioning vents of the establishments.

Sounds of firing coming from both hotels indicate that pitched battles were being fought on the premises. A senior official of the Indian Navy said the commandos were conducting room-to-room searches at the Oberoi to flush out the terrorists.

Speaking to reporters in the city today, Ratan Tata, who heads the Taj Hotels, said the group would spare no expense to restore the iconic hotel, which was set up by the group’s founder Jamshedji Tata more than a century ago.

Tata mourned the deaths of several Taj employees in the terror attack.

The state police chief said today the toll in the attacks rose to 127 even as investigators from Central security agencies and the Maharashtra Police are still trying to figure out the number of terrorists who carried out the attacks in Mumbai late Wednesday night and early this morning.

“We have so far accounted for 10 terrorists, including those dead, injured and arrested. We suspect that at least 25 terrorists may have entered the city by sea to carry the terror operations,” Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister and home minister R.R. Patil said this afternoon.

Police officials say several terrorists are still holed up in Oberoi Trident and the Nariman House, all located in Colaba and Nariman Point areas of downtown Mumbai.

DGP Anami N. Roy said today that the number of dead in the terror attacks across the city rose to 127. The number of injured has been pegged at 327. However, the figures are expected to rise as several dead and injured persons have been taken out of Taj and Oberoi hotels. Commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG), the Army and the Navy are conducting joint operations.

So far an Australian, a Japanese and a British national, apart from some Americans, have been accounted for among the dead. A number of employees of the Taj and Oberoi hotels, including reception staff, bellboys and chefs, are among the casualties.

With the authorities not willing to take a chance in case some of the terrorists are hiding in the city to carry out further attacks, all cinemas, shopping malls and public entertainment across the city and suburbs have been ordered closed till further notice.

Across the city, planned trade shows, exhibitions and public activities have been ordered halted by the government even as cautious residents stayed indoors.

The police said three commando teams had stormed the Taj hotel while two had entered the Oberoi hotel. Another two NSG commando teams were set to storm the Nariman House, where an Israeli belonging to a Jewish sect and his wife have been taken hostage. Their two-year-old child and and Indian maid, who looked after them, were released by the terrorists. Some Israelis are also said to be on the premises.

Eyewitnesses said the terrorists stormed the Nariman House after taking a police van at gunpoint and forcing the policemen to drive into the place.




PM hints at involvement of group based in Pak
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 27
As the nation watched with shock and disbelief the events unfolding in Mumbai, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today hinted at the involvement of a Pakistan-based group in the worst terror attacks on the nation’s commercial capital and promised to strengthen the hands of police and intelligence authorities to combat the menace.

“It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with a single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country,” Singh said in an address to the nation.

Without naming Pakistan or any other country, he said New Delhi would firmly tell its ‘neighbours’ that the use of their territory for launching attacks on India would not be tolerated and that there would be a ‘cost’ if suitable measures were not taken by them.

Officials said the Prime Minister had been closely monitoring the situation in Mumbai and had been virtually restless ever since the terrorists struck at different places in Mumbai last night.

Singh hardly had any sleep as he was closeted with top officials, including National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, Intelligence Bureau chief P C Haldar and other officials, through the night, keeping himself abreast with the developments in Mumbai.

He also spoke to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, leader of the opposition L K Advani, home minister Shivraj Patil and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh about the terror attacks in Mumbai.

As he addressed the nation, Singh looked grim and worried. “We are not prepared to countenance a situation in which the safety and security of our citizens can be violated with impunity by terrorists,” he asserted.

The government would take the strongest possible measures to ensure that there was no repetition of such terrorist acts. It was determined to take whatever measures were necessary to ensure the safety and security of citizens.

“Instruments like the National Security Act will be employed to deal with situations of this kind. Existing laws will be tightened to ensure that there are no loopholes available to terrorists to escape the clutches of the law,” he said, emphasising that it was essential to immediately set up a federal investigation agency to go into terrorist crimes of this kind and ensure that the guilty were brought to book.

Singh also stated that the government would take steps to curb the flow of funds to suspect organisations. It would restrict the entry of suspects into the country and go after these individuals and organisations to make sure that every perpetrator, organiser and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion might be, paid a heavy price for these cowardly and horrific acts against the people of India.




First Person
A nightmare Justice Sodhi would like to forget soon
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
It was face to face with terror that a trustee of The Tribune, Justice S. S. Sodhi, would like to forget as quickly as he can.

“It was quiet an experience. I could never imagine such a thing would happen in Mumbai,” said Justice Sodhi after he along with five others was rescued from the Corporate Club of Taj hotel, after 11 hours of breathless shelter there.

It was a harrowing time for the guests of Hotel Taj. In less than an hour of checking in the elite Taj hotel at 9.30 p.m., Justice Sodhi was virtually face to face with one of the terrorists, who in his early 20s, fired a shot from his gun at one of the shops connecting main lobby with one of the restaurants of the hotel. And next 11 hours, including six hours in the WC rest room, at the hotel till his rescue at 9.25 in the morning were marked by not only anxiety, suspense and horror but also had him and five other guests packed like sardines in a small toilet with gunshots and grenade blasts immediate outside.

And during those six hours, the hotel management had the electricity supply and air-conditioning units switched off to toilets and WC rest rooms also. Hot and sultry as Mumbai weather is with gunshots and grenade blasts by terrorists outside made the guests to go through their worst ever. Their only hope was dawn or daylight by which they were hopeful that security forces would rescue them.

Ultimately, when they had a knock at the door of their shelter, a contingent of Indian Army was there that asked them to come out with their hands raised.

“When I had a look at my watch, it was 9.25 am . I rubbed my eyes in disbelief as we thought it to be around 6 in the morning. But on cross checking with the hotel staff, we realised how long we were in forced and terrible captivity,” said Justice Sodhi. One thing must go to the credit of the hotel staff. Throughout it tried to look after the guests by supplying them drinking water, cold drinks and biscuits. Justice Sodhi confirms that hotel staff was very helpful and did its best to look after the guests during this unforeseen crisis.

“After I checked in, I came down to the lobby adjoining the swimming pool where I started watching India-England cricket match. After the match as I started for the restaurant, adjoining the main lobby, I was virtually face to face with one of the terrorists who fired a shot that smashed the pane of a shop in the shopping arcade of the hotel.

“Since there were two other guests, both foreigners, walking along, we were pushed back and escorted by the hotel security staff to the Corporate Club on the first floor of the hotel. Soon the Corporate Club was overflowing with 100-150 guests. Televisions in the club were disconnected, as women were getting panicky. Local telephones also went dead. Some guests who had mobile phones or laptops were able to get the latest on what was happening. Little did we realise the gravity of the terrorist attack in which we were caught that virtually rocked the world? It was during our stay in the Corporate Club that hotel staff looked after guests with mineral water, cold drinks and biscuits.

“It was around 3.30 a.m. t the hotel staff informed us that they would evacuate us in small batches of five to six guests each. But it was disrupted by gunfire in which one guest was injured. It led to panic and we also ran for shelter and six of us took shelter in the WC rest room, which had hardly enough space for us to stand. To add to our misery, power supply and air-conditioning was switched off for security reasons.

“We were all fear- struck as we continued to hear gunshots and grenade blasts just outside out shelter. At times, we were holding our breaths so as not to let out any indication of we were hiding inside. We only heaved a sigh of relief when Army men came looking for guests and found us inside the toilet. After we were escorted out we were taken to the police station for recording statements about our identity and status.

After we came out we realised that whatever was being shown on various TV channels was far from truth as what was actual happening inside hotels was far more serious and torturous than could be shown.

“An escort from Taj,” reveals Justice Sodhi, “told me at least four chefs of the hotel and several members of the security staff, not only of the hotel but also of the police and Army, had been killed. It was quiet or hell of an experience for me as I could never imagine that such a thing would happen in Mumbai.”



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