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Witnesses Describe Attacks On Mumbai

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Witnesses Describe Attacks On Mumbai

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Witnesses Describe Attacks On Mumbai

Witnesses Describe Attacks On Mumbai

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Indian authorities say more than 100 people have been killed by gunmen, who stormed at least 10 locations in Mumbai Wednesday night. Teams of gunmen targeted the separate sites including luxury hotels, hospitals and a train station. Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra and Journalist Sara Rajan were near two of the hotels that were targeted and talk with Steve Inskeep about what they say.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's Morning Edition from NPR News on Thanksgiving morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. Here's one more detail of the investigation of India's terror attacks. The Indian navy says it is boarding a ship in the waters off the city of Mumbai. Authorities have been asking if gunmen might have come by boat on their way to strike hotels and other targets in that giant city. One target was a luxurious waterfront hotel, the Taj Mahal. Another was a pair of connected luxury hotels, the Trident Oberoi. At last report, police are still moving room to room looking for victims or gunmen after attacks that killed more than one hundred people. We called two people in Mumbai today, including Smriti Mundhra, an American filmmaker.

Ms. SMRITI MUNDHRA (Filmmaker): As I was getting ready for bed last night, I noticed some commotion down on the street below and police sirens and things like that. So I didn't think much of it because things like this happen in Bombay from time to time. But when I turned the news on, I realized what was going on. But there was sort of a confusion of gunfire and bomb blasts in the neighborhood here where I'm staying. And as the evening wore on and I got more information from the news, I realized that situation at the Oberoi hotel and at the Taj Mahal hotel, both of which are a mere two minutes from my flat in South Bombay.

INSKEEP: And so the entire neighborhood was engulfed with anxiety about all this.

Ms. MUNDHRA: Yes, absolutely.

INSKEEP: We should mention that you're an American filmmaker. And you also refer to the city as Bombay, which is helpful for Americans to be reminded that this is the city once known as Bombay, now the formal name is Mumbai. Let's get another person on the line. Sara Rajan is a journalist, and she was also near the hotels at the time the attacks began. Can you describe what you have seen in the last 24 hours?

Ms. SARA RAJAN (Journalist): Well, the first we sort of knew that there was something wrong was around a little past 10 last night. We heard - I, again, live about five minutes down the road from the Trident and the Oberoi on Marine Drive. And we heard two - what seemed like - crackers going off. We realized that there was something wrong because there was no one on Marine Drive that was making noise. We turned on the television and realized that the whole of South Mumbai was sort of under siege. I was out this morning. I went to the Taj as well as to the Trident and the Oberoi, and the situation at the Taj seems to have gotten slightly better. People are being brought out of the hotel. But the Oberoi and the Trident are eerily quiet. Estimates have there must be about a hundred people inside the hotel, but there's been no movement in and out of the hotel.

INSKEEP: When you say people inside the hotel, we have reports of people who have been held hostage in the hotel as well as people who are simply trapped in their various rooms.

Ms. RAJAN: I think the Oberoi Group has not released any official numbers of how many residents they have inside these two hotels at the moment. So it's pretty much just a guess.

INSKEEP: And these are hotels that were big tourist attractions. Many foreigners would have been there.

Ms. RAJAN: Yes, because these are the five-star hotels in the area. The Taj Mahal Hotel Palace and Tower and the Oberoi and the Trident are the oldest hotels in South Bombay, and they are the sort of preferred sort of places to stay for a tourist. But it's also a very - I mean, even for locals, I mean, we go there for absolutely everything. Rarely a week goes by when you don't go there a couple of times. It was very much sort of part of life in South Bombay. It's hard to say how horrible this whole thing has been. I mean, it's a complete shock.

INSKEEP: Let me turn back to Smriti Mundhra, the filmmaker who's still on the line with us. I understand you knew someone who was inside one of the hotels at the time of the attacks.

Ms. MUNDHRA: Yeah, I was sort of canvassing my friends and family, and I realized that, you know, a lot of people I know have either been in the hotel or know people who may still be trapped in one of the two hotels. My cousin actually works in the Taj Hotel. Her office is in the hotel. And a lot of her colleagues both work and live in the hotel with their families. And a lot of them haven't been accounted for as yet.

INSKEEP: Smriti Mundhra is a filmmaker, and Sara Rajan is a journalist based in Mumbai.

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Indian Commandos Still Battling Mumbai Gunmen

Government commandos in the Indian financial hub of Mumbai were still battling to wrest control of buildings and hotels seized by teams of gunmen in bloody attacks on Wednesday.

Indian sharpshooters opened fire early Friday at the site of a besieged Jewish center in Mumbai. Suspected militants were believed to be holed up — possibly with hostages — inside the headquarters of the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch. Snipers in buildings opposite the center began shooting as a helicopter circled overhead.

Earlier, an Israeli embassy official had said at least 10 Israeli nationals were trapped in buildings or held hostage in Mumbai.

At least 119 people had been killed and 288 wounded in a series of attacks that began Wednesday evening when the gunmen stormed at least 10 sites frequented by Western tourists and wealthy Indians — including the Jewish center, two luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, a train station, hospitals and a police station that controls security in the sector where the attacks were carried out.

'Still Not Under Control'

Officials said Thursday that the death toll from the attacks could rise.

"The situation is still not under control and we are trying to flush out any more terrorists hiding inside the two hotels," said Vilasrao Deshmukh, chief minister of Maharashtra state where Mumbai is located.

The Maharashtra state home ministry said dozens of hostages had been freed from the Trident-Oberoi hotel and dozens more were still trapped inside. More than 400 people were brought out of the Taj Mahal hotel, and army forces were still scouring the building for survivors Friday morning.

Late Thursday night, authorities said they had killed three gunmen at the Taj and were sweeping the Oberoi in search of hostages and trapped people. It remained unclear just how many people had been taken hostage, how many were hiding inside the hotels and how many dead still lay uncounted.

Fears Of Renewed Tension With Pakistan

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed militant groups based in neighboring countries, usually meaning Pakistan, raising fears of renewed tension between the nuclear-armed rivals.

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

Pakistani authorities were quick to condemn the attacks, but Pakistan's defense minister warned Singh not to accuse Pakistan of links to the attacks.

"This will destroy all the goodwill we created together after years of bitterness," he told The Associated Press. "I will say in very categoric terms that Pakistan is not involved in these gory incidents."

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens not to travel to Mumbai for 48 to 72 hours.

From NPR and wire reports.

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