Terror strikes MUMBAI, now under terrorists control

As many as 80 people were killed and 240 injured in India’s financial hub of Mumbai as gunmen armed with rifles and grenades stormed five-star hotels in the country’s first terrorist attack targeting foreigners.

“Mumbai is the New York of India and this is a clear attack on Westerners,” said Clive Williams, a terrorism specialist at the Australian National University. “The targeting of British and Americans means there is a new modus operandi.”

Fire spread through the luxury Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, where terrorists were holding as many as 15 people hostage, the Press Trust of India reported. Army commandos were trying to flush gunmen from the Taj and two other luxury hotels, the Oberoi and Trident.

Targeting foreign nationals at key tourist hotels and restaurants adds a new dimension to a wave of bombings in India this year that has killed more than 300 people. A little known Islamist group called the Deccan Mujahadeen claimed responsibility for the attacks that began late yesterday, PTI said.

Multiple attacks have rocked India’s cities this year with bombs planted in markets, theaters and near mosques.

‘Sheer Chaos’

“It was sheer chaos,” said Manuela Testolini, a Canadian businesswoman who was dining at the Oberoi when gunmen burst in hunting for foreign nationals. “Every time we heard gunshots they were right behind us,” Testolini, who escaped through the kitchen with guests and hotel workers, told CNN television.

Militants remain in control of the Taj, in the heart of Mumbai’s Colaba tourist district, and the Oberoi and Trident, which are adjacent to each other in the financial district of Nariman Point, NDTV reported. Nine terrorists have been captured, five killed and three escaped, it said.

President-elect Barack Obama led global condemnation of the attacks as his transition team said the U.S. would work with “India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the attackers to be “brought to justice swiftly.”

The U.S. State Department said it wasn’t aware of any American casualties in the attacks “at this point.” Two Australians were among those injured, according to the government in Canberra. One Japanese citizen was killed and another injured, the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo said.

Unilever Chief Executive Officer Patrick Cescau and members of the management team visiting the city are safe, the company said in e-mailed statements.

Explosions, Gunfire

The attacks, the worst in the city since train blasts in July 2006, began late yesterday with explosions and gunfire ringing out across the city. Shootings occurred outside Cafe Leopold, in the Colaba district of south Mumbai and at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, CNN-IBN television reported.

There was an explosion near a junction in Vile Parle, near the airport, where the remains of a taxicab were strewn across the road. Another explosion in a taxi was reported at Mazgaon dockyard road, according to PTI.

As smoke billowed from the 565-room Taj hotel, emergency services evacuated guests via ladders. All of the 26 South Koreans at the Taj were rescued, the Foreign Ministry in Seoul said in a statement.

Previous guests at the Oberoi have included News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, according to the hotel’s Web site. The Oberoi Group, founded in 1934, also operates the luxury Trident hotel brand.

Officers Killed

The head of India’s anti-terrorism unit and at least 10 other officers were killed, according to PTI. Schools and colleges in Mumbai will be closed today, the news agency said.

The attacks come as India accelerates efforts to prop up a slumping economy battered by the global financial crisis.

India’s central bank said last month that growth in the $1.2 trillion economy may be as little as 7.5 percent in the year ending next March, compared with 9 percent in the previous 12 months. That would be the weakest pace since 2005 for what is Asia’s third-largest economy after Japan and China.

The attacks may affect tourism, which climbed 10 percent in the first nine months of the year to 3.87 million visitors, generating $8.8 billion in revenue, according to government figures. Foreign direct investment into the country more than doubled between April and August to $14.6 billion.

Death Toll

Between January 2004 and March 2007 the death toll from terrorist attacks in India was 3,674, second only to Iraq during the same period, according to the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington.

The government has previously blamed terrorist attacks on organizations linked to foreign powers, without offering evidence or making arrests. Local media often blame the attacks on groups backed by Pakistan or Bangladesh, without identifying the security officials who provided the information.

India’s capital, New Delhi, was rocked by five blasts during an evening rush hour in September, killing as many as 26 people and injuring about 133. Indian Mujahadeen, which claimed responsibility for similar attacks in Ahmedabad and Jaipur, said it was behind the blasts.

Sixteen bombs exploded in Ahmedabad within 20 minutes late on July 26, a day after seven bombs tore through India’s technology hub of Bangalore, killing two. At least 20 devices hidden in cars and garbage cans were discovered and defused in the Gujarat city of Surat, days after the Ahmedabad blasts.

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November 27, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . news.

One Comment

  1. Sandhya replied:

    This is the statement being made on behalf of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL).

    We wish to confirm that the Unilever Group CEO Mr. Patrick Cescau, the Unilever CEO-elect Paul Polman and the HUL Management team including HUL Chairman, Mr. Harish Manwani and HUL CEO Mr Nitin Paranjpe, who were at the Taj Hotel (Mumbai) yesterday, had left the hotel last night (November 26th) itself and they are all safe and accounted for.

    Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by these unfortunate events.

    For more information on the subject do visit http://www.hul.co.in.

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