India's economic capital Mumbai paid witness to the most devastating and audacious terrorist attack in Independent India's history.
About 20-25 heavily armed terrorists, equipped with AK-47 rifles, GPS and credit cards, landed on the shores of Mumbai at the Gateway of India. This happened in the late hours of Wednesday, Nov. 26.
The gunmen started firing indiscriminately and killed several people at Cafe Leopold. They then hijacked a police car and shot bullets at virtually anything. Finally, they entered three buildings: The Taj mahal Hotel, an iconic monument, the Hotel Oberoi Trident and Nariman House, where a small Jewish community lives.
Several shootouts are taking place in the three buildings as we speak. Smoke can be seen billowing from the two hotels, while a Rabi and his family are being held hostage at the third site. According to police reports, 125 people have been killed and over 300 injured. That includes many foreigners, American and British nationals in particular.
Interestingly, the group seemed to have targeted such foreigners as eyewitnesses at the hotels revealed. Many witnesses who locked themselves up in the hotel were released by the Indian Army, but those being held hostage are in serious danger. The Indian Army and the National Security Guards (NSG) are coordinating the assault. The Indian Navy is surveying the adjoining sea and has said that it has captured the boat that carried the terrorists.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the attacks and assured that several steps would be taking to avoid such a situation in the future, including the establishment of a Federal Authority to tackle terrorism and the application of the powerful National Secuirty Act (NSA). He also hinted that 'outsiders' were involved in the incident, a euphemism for Islamic terrorist outfits in Pakistan who have long waged jihad (holy war) against India. Ironically, Pakistan PM YR Gilani condemned the attacks, but the fact that the Pakistani Government has no control over the thousands of Islamist groups functioning in Pakistan is well-established.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's office condemned the attacks, as did British PM Gordon Brown, NATO Secretary-General Scheffer, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Australian PM Kevin Rudd, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, representatives of Israel, Canada, France, Germany, Singapore, Sri Lanka and several other countries. US President-Elect Barack Obama issued a statement expressing deep grief over the attack and faith that Indian democracy would endure all.
NDTV now reports that, according to the Police, the terrorists are all suspected to be from Pakistan. As we speak, the encounter is still taking place and has now entered its second day. This massive attack on Mumbai has shocked the world.
[With inputs from Indian media, CNN International and BBC World]