Militants Target Mumbai In Multiple Attacks

Militants have struck multiple parts of India's financial capital, Mumbai. Eyewitnesses say Westerners were targeted with guns and grenades. Shishir Joshi, editorial director of the Mid-Day Group of Newspapers in Mumbai, offers his insight.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

It's All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris. Terrorists have struck multiple parts of India's financial capital, Mumbai. Eyewitnesses say Westerners were targeted with guns and with grenades. And Indian police say the attackers took hostages in two luxury hotels. The death toll stands at about 80 people. More than 200 are wounded. And the crisis continues to unfold. We're joined on the phone now by Shishir Joshi. He's in Mumbai, and he's editorial director of the Mid-Day group of newspapers. Mr. Joshi, thanks for being with us. You have reporters and camera teams at the scenes of the attacks. Can you tell us what they're now reporting?

SHISHIR JOSHI, Host:

Yes, Michele, it seems like a night which never seems to be ending in Mumbai at this moment. You've got a situation where the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel - the luxury hotels which have been under siege - the situation seems to be much under control at the Taj Mahal Hotel, but the Oberoi, the trouble still continues because there are 20 more people still being held hostage by approximately two to three terrorists at this moment. Every other situation seems to be fairly under control in Mumbai at this moment.

NORRIS: And the Taj Mahal was on fire. You're saying that fire has now been contained.

JOSHI: That's right. The fire has been contained. The fire was caused by a lobbing of hand grenades by the terrorists in different parts. There were at least seven different blasts which were heard in different parts of the Taj Mahal Hotel. The left wing portion was under fire for a very long time. The last of the flames have been doused now. Most of the people have been evacuated. There are reports that there could be about 10 people who could still be in the basement of the Taj Mahal Hotel, but that's not been confirmed as yet, nor have their nationalities been confirmed.

NORRIS: And just to reiterate there, we're talking about the Taj Mahal Hotel, not the actual Taj Mahal. Now there are reports that Westerners - people from Britain and from the U.S. - were specifically targeted. What's that based on?

JOSHI: Well, South Mumbai - this is predominantly where all these attacks have taken place - is where (unintelligible). This is also the business capital district area of Mumbai - largely also an area where you will find a fair amount of foreign nationals, Westerners also. The Taj Mahal and the Oberoi luxury hotels of South Mumbai and Mumbai, they are known to be fairly regularly occupied by foreign nationals - I guess one reason why it has been targeted.

But most definitely, not only these - and because there have been other targets, including hospitals, or including railway stations which have been targets of the terrorist groups. But also the restaurant come pub which is called Leopold, which is just a stone's throw away from the Taj Mahal hotel, has also been a target, which has been generally frequented by foreign nationals. The reason has not yet been known. There is a militant group which has owned up for the blasts, which have lasted - taken a huge toll across Mumbai. But one hasn't been able to confirm whether this group has any legitimacy at all or not.

NORRIS: Now you mention this militant group that's claimed responsibility and that people don't know much about them. Does that claim of responsibility seem credible?

JOSHI: Pardon, Michele, I couldn't...

NORRIS: Does the claim of responsibility on the part of this group that's fairly unknown seem credible?

JOSHI: Well, there have been fair amount of splinter groups which have time and again owned up for different forms of blasts. So whether this splinter group has its allegiance or owes its allegiance to any parent body of militancy is not yet known. That's something for the investigators to find out. None of them have so far confirmed or wanted to get to this matter. I would like to add, Michele, that a couple of new revelations have come up in the last few hours...

NORRIS: Just quickly because we don't have much time. Just quickly, sir.

JOSHI: Yeah, very quickly, is that the terrorists came through the sea route, and that nine of them have been arrested and two of them have been shot dead by the police. Two more have managed to escape, Michele.

NORRIS: All right. Well, Shishir Joshi is the editorial director of the Mid-Day group of newspapers. Thanks so much for being with us.

JOSHI: Thank you.

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