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Scores Killed After Gunmen Launch Multiple Attacks in Mumbai, India

November 26, 2008 at 6:10 PM EST
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Dozens of people died Wednesday in Mumbai, India, in a series of gun and grenade attacks targeting hotels and other sites. Washington Post reporter Rama Lakshmi provides details from the scene.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The attacks in India. I talked moments ago with Rama Lakshmi, a Washington Post correspondent in the capital, New Delhi.

Rama, we’re watching some pretty dramatic footage here of buildings on fire. Give us the latest on what’s happened there.

RAMA LAKSHMI, The Washington Post: The death toll so far is more than 80, and the people injured is more than 300.

What started with firing — a series of firing and grenade explosions five-and-a-half ago — or a little under five-and-a-half hours ago — is still going on.

Right now, all the action is at this 103-year-old hotel. You know, it’s a beautiful, historic heritage site of Mumbai City. And in the last half-an-hour, television has just stayed focused on the dome of this hotel, which caught fire, and now we are hearing that there are blasts inside the hotel.

This is a huge — this is a huge and unprecedented attack, terrorist attack in India. We have had, you know, a string of attacks in the last few months, but this is the most dramatic.

And I fear for people — people in Mumbai say they fear for the dome of the hotel. It might come down if this goes on, because there are several blasts that are going on in that hotel.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, we understand there were at least seven coordinated attacks or more than that?

RAMA LAKSHMI: Seven confirmed, but eight is unconfirmed. The eighth one is unconfirmed, but seven confirmed by the police so far, outside hotels, luxury hotels, firings outside cinema halls, municipal cooperation buildings, train stations, hospitals, all kinds of places, and most it has taken place in this affluent, posh southern district of Mumbai City, which is on the coastline and it’s the main business district…

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you…

RAMA LAKSHMI: … and the nerve center of the economic capital of India.

Unknown group claims responsibility

Rama Lakshmi
The Washington Post
We do not know about any connection between this blast and the others, because there were some e-mails that were sent out to news organizations a couple of hours ago, and a ... unknown group called Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility

JUDY WOODRUFF: What were you saying about the economic capital?

RAMA LAKSHMI: This southern district, where the hotels are situated, this is the nerve center of the economic capital of India.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were saying that this is an affluent area and there have been terrorist incidents recently, but any indication of a connection? And what information is there at this point about who's behind this?

RAMA LAKSHMI: We do not know about any connection between this blast and the others, because there were some e-mails that were sent out to news organizations a couple of hours ago, and a little-known group -- in fact, unknown group called Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility.

The name suggests that it's a southern-based organization. Deccan would mean southern Indian organization. Beyond that, the intelligence officials say they have no other information right now or background about this group.

Many of the blasts that have rocked Indian cities since May have been claimed by another organization that called itself Indian Mujahideen and in, you know, detailed e-mails to news organizations.

We do not know yet whether there's a connection between Deccan Mujahideen and the Indian Mujahideen.

Police activity at the hotels

Rama Lakshmi
The Washington Post
And one of the eyewitnesses said that, as soon as these boys -- most of them, you know, a couple of boys he talked about were 20, 25 years old, wearing jeans and T-shirts. They looked normal, casual, young boys.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, what about, Rama, the reports that there are foreigners in the hotels and other buildings there? This is a heavily touristed area, right?

RAMA LAKSHMI: It is. And it's the business district, so a lot of business travelers stay in these hotels from around the world. These are some of the best hotels in India and the most expensive hotels.

So there are reports that foreigners are still stranded inside. We do not know if they're trapped or whether they're being held hostage.

I spoke to somebody who was there on top of the Taj hotel for about four-and-a-half hours, and he just got home, and there were about 150 there. And he was trapped at the rooftop. But he says there were several foreigners, and there were more foreigners inside the hotel in rooms and in the lobby area, he thought. We do not know the number yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, at this point, the police are simply trying to get this under control? We know one of the hotels was stormed.

RAMA LAKSHMI: Yes, the Taj was stormed, and the fire exits were secured, and these 150 people came out about 45 minutes ago, and they were safe.

There is an operation going on at the Oberoi Trident. We do not have any information on that. Right now, firefighter efforts are underway.

And one of the eyewitnesses said that, as soon as these boys -- most of them, you know, a couple of boys he talked about were 20, 25 years old, wearing jeans and T-shirts. They looked normal, casual, young boys.

They came in, and the first thing they asked when they entered the hotel lobby was, "We are looking for British -- people with British and American passports." They were probably looking at a hostage situation, you know, hostage-taking situation. We don't know, but that's what they were looking for in the beginning.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, very disturbing. And, Rama Lakshmi, we thank you very much for talking with us.

RAMA LAKSHMI: Thank you.