Saturday, November 29, 2008
It ended when commandos finally caught up with a lone gunman, who had played a cat-and-mouse game in the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, nearly 56 hours after the attacks began.
According to Indian television and radio, 155 people have been killed and 327 others wounded. Local media have described the attacks as “India’s 9/11.” CNN is reporting over 160 dead and 370 injured. Eleven gunmen killed are not counted in these totals.
Police say that they are in control of both the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Trident hotels. Nearly 300 people have been freed.
The siege of Nariman House, an outreach post of the orthodox-Jewish sect Chabad-Lubavitch, ended when at least eight Black Cats commandos entered the building by rope from a helicopter. No hostages or attackers survived the assault, though details are still unclear.
“These people were very, very familiar with the hotel layouts and it appears they had carried out a survey before,” said an unidentified commander of MARCOS, India’s elite marine commandos. The commandos were hampered because they feared injuring hotel guests if they used overwhelming force.
“Bodies were strewn all over the place, and there was blood everywhere,” he said.
The commander also noted that his unit found a backpack belonging to one of the gunmen. Inside they found dried fruit, 400 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, four grenades, Indian rupees and American dollars, and seven credit cards from some of the world’s leading banks and a national ID card for the island nation of Mauritius.
“Once the bodies are collected, the number of deaths might go up to 200,” said India’s Minister of Home Affairs Sri Prakash Jaiswal.
“We came up against highly motivated terrorists,” said Vice-Admiral J.S. Bedi, whose commandos led the assault against the militants.
India’s foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, said, “Preliminary evidence indicates that elements with links to Pakistan are involved,” stirring a diplomatic row between India and Pakistan. Observers have said that the attacks bear the hallmarks of Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed, both of which are believed to be based in Pakistan and also responsible for previous attacks on India.
However, Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gillani said that Pakistan had “nothing to do with the attacks.”
“It is unfair to blame Pakistan or Pakistanis for these acts of terrorism even before an investigation is undertaken,” Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, said in a statement. “Instead of scoring political points at the expense of a neighboring country that is itself a victim of terrorism, it is time for India’s leaders to work together with Pakistan’s elected leaders in putting up a joint front against terrorism.”