Americans Among The Dead In Mumbai Attacks
Americans Among The Dead In Mumbai Attacks
Indian commandos are still fighting gunmen in Mumbai. At least 150 people were killed with hundreds more injured in the coordinated attacks, which began on Wednesday night. India is blaming the attacks on Islamic extremists. NPR's Alex Cohen talks to reporter Anuj Chopra, who was at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, one of the main targets of the attacks.
ALEX COHEN, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Alex Cohen. Coming up, Barack Obama has been in talks with Hillary Clinton to become his secretary of state. We'll hear what people in Europe, China and the Middle East think of that choice in just a few moments. But first, we go to Mumbai, India, where at least 150 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in coordinated terrorist attacks throughout the city. Among those killed: Americans Allen Scherr and his 13-year-old daughter. Also, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who ran the Chabad House in Mumbai. Today, a team of FBI agents were ordered to fly to India to investigate the attacks. Earlier, we spoke with reporter Anuj Chopra in Mumbai. We asked him to comment on what was going on at that time, at the Chabad House.
ANUJ CHOPRA: This morning, there were paramilitary forces, commandos who got off the helicopter on the roof of this Jewish center to try to take control of it. They've been engaged in this action all this morning. I was speaking to someone who owned an apartment in a building in that neighborhood. We can see right inside that building, right through that building. And she told me that the commandos had seized control of the fourth and the first floor, and there are terrorists and their hostages were confined to the second floor. I heard news reports that they have seized control of the entire Jewish center this evening. Like what I said, I heard gunshots, which sort of left doubts in my mind that things aren't entirely under control.
COHEN: There are also Indian forces present at the Taj Mahal Hotel, a luxury hotel. Do we know about how things are going there?
CHOPRA: I'm actually standing right in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel as I speak with you. This has been going on for the last three days. We hear these deafening grenade explosions somewhere inside the hotel, and also roars of gunfire breaking at irregular intervals. This evening, I saw paramilitary forces in front of the hotel, and they were up to something. They were trying to get in, trying to seize control. So, it's obviously not over yet. I was interviewing a bomb-diffusing expert who said it's a little difficult to seize control of this huge structure because of the sheer size and the architecture. You know, you get inside and there are mirrors almost everywhere. There are lots of mirrors. And anyone who tries climbing upstairs sort of implicitly warns - gives the warning to - the guy on the top sort of knows that someone is trying to approach him. And it just makes their job very difficult. Inside, we also understand that these hostages that were taken are being used as human shield which, I guess, just makes the job more time-consuming. It's been three days and India's still - the authorities here are still struggling with seizing back control of this hotel, this iconic hotel in Mumbai.
COHEN: Anuj, briefly, is there any news on who might be responsible for these attacks?
CHOPRA: We've heard the name of this unknown Jihadi group called the Deccan Mujahideen. And this is only the first time I've heard of this name. India's more familiar with another Jihadi group called the Indian Mujahideen, which is doing the rounds in months after several cities were bombed. But there are terror experts who say that you shouldn't take names seriously. These are just disguises of the radical Islamic groups that are based in Islamabad, that are based in Pakistan. I guess it's - considering the fact that this is still unfolding, it's sort of shocking that these terrorists entered this iconic building, the fact that they've been going on for three days. I remember the Indian parliament was attacked in 2001, and the Indian authorities managed to gun them down in a matter of a few minutes. But this is just taking forever, it seems.
COHEN: Anuj Chopra is a freelance journalist in Mumbai, India. Thank you.
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Hostages Found Dead In Mumbai Jewish Center
The number of dead from a spate of militant attacks across India's financial capital, Mumbai, rose to 150 on Friday, after commandos who stormed the headquarters of a Jewish sect discovered the bodies of five hostages inside.
Four Americans are also among the dead in about 10 attacks that started Wednesday night and which India has blamed on Islamic extremists. The main targets were the Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi luxury hotels, which are frequented by foreign and Indian business travelers.
Officials said the Americans were among 22 foreigners killed in the attacks.
Indian commandos emerged from the Mumbai Jewish center late Friday with their assault rifles raised. Inside, though, were five dead hostages, according to Israel's ZAKA emergency medical services unit, which entered the building after the raid and reported through an Indian aide that five hostages and two gunmen were dead.
A Brooklyn-based rabbi and his wife were among those killed in the siege.
"Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the beloved directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, were killed during one of the
worst terrorist attacks to strike India in recent memory," the Chabad's New York headquarters said in a statement.
By Friday evening, at least nine gunmen had been killed, one had been arrested and as many as six were still in the Taj Mahal, said R. Patil, a top official in Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is the capital. He said more than 150 people had been killed and 370 injured.
Meanwhile, operations were ongoing at Mumbai's famed five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
Navy commandos told reporters that gunmen inside the Taj were firing indiscriminately — and that they seemed very familiar with the layout of the hotel.
Earlier, India's National Security Guard said it had taken control of the Oberoi Hotel. Guests who had been holed up since Wednesday emerged from the hotel and another two dozen bodies were recovered inside.
The well-coordinated strikes by small bands of gunmen starting Wednesday night left the city shell-shocked. Late Thursday, after about 400 people had been brought out of the Taj, officials said it had been cleared of gunmen.
From NPR staff and wire reports