Saturday, November 29, 2008

MUMBAI TERROR, DAY 4: All major operations are basically over, with terror targets under control, according to local authorities [see previous day coverage]. We'll be following the developments overnight...

3:02 am EST: Siege at Taj Mahal hotel over, officials say (BBC):
Police commissioner Hassan Gafoor said the hotel was now under their control. "All combat operations are over. All the terrorists have been killed."
3:34 am EST: Police going in (NYT):
Soldiers were still combing the hotel, going room to room in search of remaining gunmen, but the siege appeared finally to have ended, J. K. Dutt, director general of the National Security Guard, an elite commando force, said in the news conference at 9 a.m. Firefighters were permitted to begin pouring water over the flames that had burned out of control in the hotel’s lower floors for as much as an hour while the commandos battled the terrorists.

3:51 am EST: Death toll rises to 195 dead, 295 wounded -- for now (FNC):
Shantaram Jadhav, an official at Mumbai's disaster control office, says 195 people have been killed and 295 wounded. Jadhav says "the death toll is likely to rise because there are still bodies in our vans that are being brought into hospitals."
4:01 am EST: Internal structure of some floors of the Taj Mahal in danger (NDTV):
The sixth floor of the hotel is completely gutted in fire and can't be reached. So, the commandos are finding it pretty hard to sanitise the floor.

However, all four terrorists inside the hotels have been killed and no one was caught alive, sources said.

Two of the hotel staffers have also been rescued and the security forces are now destroying ammunition in the hotel.

Meanwhile, Karmabir, the general manager of Taj who lost his wife and children, is still at work.

The sources also said that the internal structure around the fourth and the sixth floor of the Taj may be in danger, sources added.

Earlier, describing Saturday's operation, NSG chief J K Dutt said that a fire had been started in the hotel by NSG commandos to smoke out terrorists. However, the mopping up operation still on.
4:11 am EST: Heroes -- Lowly hotel staff saved hundreds of wealthy guests, sacrificing own lives (Times UK):
Among the workers there were some whose bravery and sense of duty led them to sacrifice their own lives, witnesses said.

Prashant Mangeshikar, a guest, said that a hotel worker, identified only as Mr Rajan, had put himself between one of the gunmen and Mr Mangeshikar, his wife and two daughters.

“The man in front of my wife shielded us,” Mr Mangeshikar said. “He was a maintenance section staff member. He took the bullets.”

4:19 am EST: Pakistan foreign minister cuts short India visit (Times of India):

Distressed over widespread charges of involvement of Pakistan in the Mumbai terror attacks, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi cut short his four-day visit to India and abruptly left for Islamabad on Saturday morning. . . .
Qureshi, who started his visit to India Wednesday on a positive note, was "quite upset" about what he saw as India's "insinuations" pointing to the involvement of Pakistan-based terrorists in audacious terror strikes at in Mumbai.
4:29 am EST: Up to 7 terrorists were British (Daily Mail UK):
As many as seven of the terrorists may have British connections and some could be from Leeds and Bradford where London's July 7 bombers lived, one source said.

Two Britons were among eight gunmen being held, according to Mumbai's chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. At least nine others are reportedly dead.
4:36 am EST: Killers were well prepared (WaPo):
Indian intelligence officials said the gunmen who launched the coordinated attacks appeared well trained and well prepared. The assailants seemed familiar with the layouts of the two hotels and the Jewish center, giving them a tactical advantage over the police and Indian army troops sent in to dislodge them.

"This is a big-scale operation, but it is not beyond the capability of Lashkar-i-Taiba," said the intelligence officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the nature of his work. "The person we have caught is a foot soldier; he is from Pakistan's Punjab," the officer said, referring to a region divided by the India-Pakistan border.

"He has clearly said he is with Lashkar and that he was trained," the officer said. "They came via a ship. They hijacked a boat called Kuber, shot the man in charge on the boat. They were carrying a CD with the photographs of all the targets of the site, details. It is clear that they were determined to target India's iconic locations and deter foreign investment."
4:41 am EST: US transition + Thanksgiving + cricket -- a look at the attack's timing could shed light on authorship (Sky News)

Shortly before the terrorists moved into their targets in South Mumbai, a black and yellow taxi, with three passengers and enough ammunition to bring down a dome, sped in the direction of the airport. Instead of taking a slip road that would have taken the passengers straight to the airport, the driver took the flyover which bypassed the airport, only to get stuck at a red light.

At rush hour, the lights stayed red for long, at which the passengers berated the driver and asked him to cut the traffic lights. The driver moved on, but the wait turned out to be a minute or two too long. The car exploded. All that was found was a severed head and parts of three human legs. Had the terrorists' plans of coinciding a blast at the airport with the attacks on the Taj and Oberoi hotels succeeded, the death toll of 26/11 would have been much bigger than it already is.
5:28 am EST: Focus on Pakistani group (NYT):
American intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Friday that there was mounting evidence that a Pakistani militant group based in Kashmir, most likely Lashkar-e-Taiba, was responsible for this week’s deadly attacks in Mumbai.

The officials cautioned that they had reached no firm conclusions about who was responsible for the attacks, or how they were planned and carried out. Nevertheless, they said that evidence gathered in the past two days pointed to a role for Lashkar-e-Taiba or possibly another group based in Kashmir, Jaish-e-Muhammad, which also has a track record of attacks against India.
6:07 am EST: Bad timing, bad judgement: Bollywood actor Imraan Khan's t-shirt at movie premiere in Mumbay, Nov. 26. (Yahoo News picture)

7:12 am EST: 15 Attackers (WaPo):
Indian officials said they now believe that at least 15 gunmen carried out the operation after reaching Mumbai by sea. After an interrogation of one of the attackers, Indian intelligence officials said they suspected that a Pakistani Islamist group, Lashkar-i-Taiba, was responsible. An Indian intelligence document from 2006 obtained by The Washington Post said members of the group had been trained in maritime assault. 
9:01 am EST: Nariman House victims may have been dead since Wednesday (The Lede @ NYT):
The Holtzbergs’ nanny, who took the couple’s toddler son Moshe from the building soon after the attacks started, told investigators that she saw the rabbi and his wife lying on the floor covered in blood when she left.

At least six, and possibly seven, other victims were killed in the Mumbai headquarters of Jewish group Chabad, people involved in the investigation said. Chabad officials have identified two of the dead as Leibish Teitelbaum, a rabbi from Brooklyn living in Israel, and Bentzion Chroman, an Israeli with dual American citizenship.

The identities and number of the remaining victims were still unknown as of Saturday afternoon. One person who had been in the building said some of the victims’ faces were unrecognizable after the attacks. Many of the bodies were found covered in a Jewish prayer shawl.
11:12 am EST: Bad Intelligence Helped Mumbai Attacks Succeed (Sky News):
While terrorism experts say Indian special forces performed with remarkable bravery and professionalism in their battle with the terrorists, they believe the attacks should — and could — have been thwarted by better intelligence.