Terror attacks in Mumbai; six foreigners among 101 dead

27 11 2008

27 Nov 2008 audio
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: At least 101 people have been killed in attacks by gunmen in Mumbai, police said on Thursday. ( Watch

Terror attacks in Mumbai

Army personnel take position at the Gateway of India that stands in front of Taj Hotel in Mumbai. (Reuters Photo)

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“At least six foreigners have been killed and the death figure has gone up to 101 now,” Ramesh Tayde, a senior police officer told from Mumbai’s control room.

In one of the most violent terror attacks on Indian soil, Mumbai came under an unprecedented night attack as terrorists used heavy machine guns, including AK-47s, and grenades to strike at the city’s most high-profile targets — the hyper-busy CST (formerly VT) rail terminus; the landmark Taj Hotel at the Gateway and the luxury Oberoi Trident at Nariman Point; the domestic airport at Santa Cruz; the Cama and GT hospitals near CST; the Metro Adlabs multiplex and Mazgaon Dockyard — killing at least 101 and sending hundreds of injured to hospital, according to latest reports. ( Watch )

The attacks have taken a tragic toll on the city’s top police brass: The high-profile chief of the anti-terror squad Hemant Karkare was killed; Mumbai’s additional commissioner of police (east) Ashok Kamte was gunned down outside the Metro; and celebrated encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar was also killed. ( Watch )

The attacks appeared to be aimed at getting international attention as the terrorists took upto 40 British nationals and other foreigners hostage. The chairman of Hindustan Unilever Harish Manwani and CEO of the company Nitin Paranjpe were among the guests trapped at the Oberoi. All the internal board members of the multinational giant were reported to be holed up in the Oberoi hotel.

Two terrorists were reported holed up inside the Oberoi Hotel. Fresh firing has been reported at Oberoi and Army has entered the hotel to flush out the terrorists.

An unknown outfit, Deccan Mujahideen, has sent an email to news organizations claiming that it carried out the Mumbai attacks. ( Watch )

The Army and Navy in Mumbai were put on alert. 65 Army commandos and 200 NSG commandos were being rushed to Mumbai, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said.

The Navy commandos too have been asked to assist the police. Special secretary M L Kumawat is in constant touch with the state police.

Some media reports attributed the attack to Lashkar-e-Taiba. There were also unconfirmed reports that some of the terrorists came in by sea. A boat laden with explosives was recovered later at night off the Gateway of India.

Well after midnight, sources said two of the terrorists were shot and wounded at Girgaum in south Mumbai. The two were driving in a commandeered silver-coloured Skoda car. Earlier, these men had sprayed bullets from a police Bolero, outside the Metro Adlabs multiplex.

The attacks occurred at the busiest places. Besides hotels and hospitals, terrorists struck at railway stations, Crawford Market, Wadi Bunder and on the Western Express Highway near the airport. Several of these places are within a one-km radius of the commissioner of police’s office.

“This is definitely a terrorist strike. Seven places have been attacked with automatic weapons and grenades. Terrorists are still holed up in three locations Taj and Oberoi hotels and GT Hospital. Encounters are on at all three places,” said Maharashtra DGP A N Roy.

St George’s Hospital and G T Hospital were said to have received 75 bodies and more than 250 injured people, additional municipal commissioner R A Rajeev said. Bombay Hospital got two bodies and 30 injured people were admitted there; Cooper Hospital, Vile Parle, got three dismembered bodies.

Three of the deaths occurred inside the Taj and one G T Hospital attendant died in a shootout inside the hospital. There were reports of people cowering under tables and chairs at both the Taj as well as G T Hospital.

Metro Junction resident Manoj Goel said: “My brother, Manish, died in the firing at Colaba’s Hamaal Galli.” Cops fired back at the men — probably from one of the Lashkar groups, dressed in black and with backpacks and SRPF, Crime Branch, ATS and teams of military commandos were summoned to the spot. Train services at CST were suspended and all roads leading to and from south Mumbai were blockaded.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh cut short his Kerala visit and was returning to Mumbai. He described the situation in Mumbai as “very serious”. ( Watch )

Deshmukh promised “stringent action” against the assailants but the mood across Mumbai was not so optimistic.

There were reports of firing around several landmark buildings in the Colaba-Nariman Point area, including the Taj hotel, Oberoi and other tourist attractions and pubs like Leopold’s. The top floor of Oberoi was said to be on fire amid reports of blasts in the area and blood-smeared bodies were being brought out of the Taj lobby.

Terrorists were said to be holed up at the Taj as well as G T Hospital and cops scampered to cordon off these places. A white flag was seen fluttering from an Oberoi Hotel window around 11.20 pm, where a blast was said to have occurred.

The blast on the Western Express Highway — near Centaur Hotel outside the airport — occurred in a taxi, deputy commissioner of police Nissar Tamboli said.

The firing and bombing started close to the Gateway of India. The gunbattle then moved on towards CST and raged on for over an hour from 10 pm, sending commuters running out of the station.

The assailants also fired into the crowd at CST and people on the trains and then ran out of the station themselves and into neighbouring buildings, including Cama Hospital, after being challenged by cops.

SRPF personnel then entered the iconic BMC building — just opposite CST — to take aim at the assailants, BMC commissioner Jairaj Phatak said. “We fear some of the assailants are still inside the station and we want to catch them if they come out,” a police official said.

Vikhroli police station senior inspector Habib Ansari was on his way to work from his Colaba home when he saw two armed men, with sophisticated weaponry, trying to run into bylanes near the Gateway of India.”I rushed back to Colaba and all policemen, including GRP and RPF personnel, were called up,” he added.

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Q+A – Who could be behind the Mumbai attacks and why?

27 11 2008

Source Reuters

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Militants armed with automatic weapons and grenades attacked luxury hotels, hospitals and a famous tourist cafe in India’s commercial capital Mumbai late on Wednesday, killing at least 101 people.

* WHO IS BEHIND THE ATTACKS?

Witnesses say the attackers were young South Asian men speaking Hindi or Urdu, suggesting they are probably members of an Indian militant group rather than foreigners.

The attacks were claimed by a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen in an e-mail to news organisations. Deccan is an area of southern India.

Analysts say that while it is not clear whether the claim is genuine, the attacks were most likely carried out by a group called the Indian Mujahideen. The name used in the claim of responsibility suggests the attackers could be members of a south Indian offshoot or cell of the Indian Mujahideen.

* WHO ARE THE INDIAN MUJAHIDEEN?

Indian police say the Indian Mujahideen is an offshoot of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), but that local Muslims appear to have been given training and backing from militant groups in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh.

SIMI has been blamed by police for almost every major bomb attack in India, including explosions on commuter trains in Mumbai two years ago that killed 187 people.

Police said the Indian Mujahideen may also include former members of th Bangladeshi militant group Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami.

* WHY ARE THEY SUSPECTED OF BEING BEHIND THE MUMBAI ATTACKS?

In an e-mail to various media in September, the group denounced Mumbai’s police anti-terrorist squad, accusing them of harassing Muslims.

“If this is the degree your arrogance has reached, and if you think that by these stunts you can scare us, then let the Indian Mujahideen warn all the people of Mumbai that whatever deadly attacks Mumbaikars will face in future, their responsibility would lie with the Mumbai ATS and their guardians,” it said.

The Indian Mujahideen have made credible claims of responsibility for most of the recent major attacks on civilian targets in India over the past two years.

The Mumbai attacks appear to have been carefully co-ordinated, well-planned and involved a large number of attackers. A high level of sophistication has also been a hallmark of previous attacks by the Indian Mujahideen.

The Mumbai attacks also focused clearly on tourist targets, including two luxury hotels and a famous cafe.

In May, the Indian Mujahideen made a specific threat to attack tourist sites in India unless the government stopped supporting the United States in the international arena.

The threat was made in an e-mail claiming responsibility for bomb attacks that killed 63 people in the tourist city of Jaipur. The e-mail, signed by “Guru Al-Hindi”, declared “open war against India” and included the serial number of one of the bicycles on which the bombs were left.

Witnesses in Mumbai say the attackers in Mumbai singled out Americans and Britons in their attacks.

* WHAT OTHER ATTACKS HAVE INDIAN MUJAHIDEEN CARRIED OUT?

The group first emerged during a wave of bombings in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in November 2007, sending an e-mail to media outlets just before some of the bombs exploded.

Their next attacks were the Jaipur blasts.

On July 25, eight small bomb attacks in the IT city of Bangalore on July 25 that killed at least one person and wounded 15. There was no known claim of responsibility.

But a day later, at least 16 bombs exploded in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat, killing 45 and wounding 161. Shortly before the blasts, an e-mail in the name of the Indian Mujahideen was sent to local media warning that people would soon “feel the terror of death” in the name of Allah.

It said the attacks were revenge for the Gujarat riots of 2002, when around 2,500 people, most of them Muslims, were killed by Hindu mobs. A later e-mail accused several state governments of harassing, imprisoning and torturing Muslims and threatened consequences if they did not stop.

In September, at least five bombs exploded in crowded markets and streets in New Delhi, killing at least 18 people.

The Indian Mujahideen sent out an e-mail moments after the first blast in New Delhi, saying the explosions were to prove its capability to strike in the most secure of Indian cities.

* WHAT WAS DIFFERENT ABOUT THE MUMBAI ATTACKS?

All previous incidents in which the Indian Mujahideen are suspected of involvement involved co-ordinated serial bombs.

The Mumbai attacks also show clear signs of co-ordination but were carried out by gunmen, some carrying grenades.

The tactics — a military-style assault on soft targets, singling out foreigners, and taking hostages — are rare and do not fit the usual methods of militant attacks on civilian areas.

However, similar attacks have been carried out before, notably the May 2004 attacks in the eastern Saudi city of Khobar.

Gunmen attacked two oil industry installations and a foreign workers’ housing complex in the city, taking more than 50 hostages and killing 22 of them. The attackers asked hostages whether they were Christian or Muslim before deciding whom to kill.