At Least 150 Dead in Mumbai Attacks
At the landmark Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel a lone gunman was still fighting with Indian forces, while at the Oberoi hotel, Indian commandos killed two militants and freed 143 guests earlier Friday.
On Friday night, Indian commandos reportedly emerged from a besieged Jewish center after a daylong battle that saw a team rappel from helicopters and a series of explosions shake the building and blow gaping holes in a wall.
A delegation from Israel’s ZAKA emergency medical services unit entered the building after the raid and reported through an Indian aide that five hostages and two gunmen were dead, reported the Associated Press.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement confirmed to news agencies Friday that a rabbi and his wife are among the dead in the attack on the Jewish center.
A spokesman said Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who ran the center, were killed in the assault. The couple’s toddler son, Moshe Holtzberg, was taken out of the center by an employee, and is now with his grandparents.
Police said 24 bodies had been found inside the Oberoi hotel on Friday, and an Indian commando said he had seen 50 bodies in the Taj, including 12 to 15 in one room.
“The Oberoi is completely clear, there is one terrorist left in the Taj, who is giving us trouble and he could hold hostages and that is why we are very cautious,” Mumbai’s police chief Hasan Gafoor told Reuters.
The group rescued from the Oberoi included at least two Americans, a Briton, two Japanese nationals and several Indians. Some carried luggage with Canadian flags, reported the AP. About 20 airline crew members were freed, including staff from Lufthansa and Air France.
About 400 people had been brought out of the Taj hotel late on Thursday.
Gunmen attacked 10 sites across India’s financial capital starting Wednesday night, including 22 foreigners — two of them Americans, Indian officials told the AP. The Americans who were killed were identified as Alan Scherr, 58 and Naomi Scherr, 13.
Meantime, Indian government officials blamed on Friday Pakistani-linked “elements” for the deadly attacks, raising the prospect of a breakdown in peace efforts.
“Preliminary evidence, prima facie evidence, indicates elements with links to Pakistan are involved,” Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at a press conference in New Delhi.
Pakistan has denied involvement and condemned the attacks, and in an unprecedented move agreed to let the head of the Pakistani military’s Inter Services Intelligence agency go to India to share information.
“Whoever has done this is neither your friend nor our friend. We are not responsible for this, nor is it in our interest to get involved in something like this,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters during a visit to New Delhi that was scheduled before the attacks.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated last year, telephoned Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday to condemn the attacks, saying “non-state actors” were responsible.
Indian home minister Jaiprakash Jaiswal said a captured gunman had been identified as a Pakistani. The British government was investigating whether some of the attackers could be British citizens with links to Pakistan or the disputed territory of Kashmir, a British security official told the AP.
A U.S. investigative team was heading to Mumbai, a State Department official said Thursday evening.
The gunmen apparently came to Mumbai by boat, and Indian forces expanded their investigation to the sea. Authorities stopped a cargo ship off the western coast of Gujarat that had sailed from Saudi Arabia and handed it over to police for investigation, Indian Navy Capt. Manohar Nambiar told the AP.
“It’s obvious they were trained somewhere…Not everyone can handle the AK series of weapons or throw grenades like that,” an unidentified member of India’s Marine Commando unit told the AP. He said the men were “very determined and remorseless.” One backpack they found had 400 rounds of ammunition inside.