Saturday, November 29, 2008

Police declare Mumbai siege over
Inside the Mumbai police control room, assistant commissioner Ramesh Chango Tayde remembers the first telephone call they got from a panicky man who said he had heard the sound of gunfire at the city's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. It was exactly 2121 on Wednesday when the call arrived. The dour chief of the control room flashed the information to the 500-odd police vans patrolling the city. For the next few hours, Mr Tayde and the 40 other men in khaki uniforms who staff the police nerve centre in India's financial capital took calls about the attacks taking place all over the city. "It was the toughest night I faced since the day of serial train blasts in the city in 2006. That was my first day as the chief of the control room," says Mr Tayde. "We have been very, very busy ever since," he says. He has not returned home since the attacks began. Growing fear On average, the 20 toll-free lines in the bustling control room receive more than 15,000 calls a day from citizens reporting anything from murders, thefts and burglaries to neighbourhood brawls, spousal tiffs and domestic violence. Since the attacks, the number of calls has jumped by a quarter, says deputy commissioner AV Jadhav. Skittish residents are calling up and talking about "people moving around suspiciously, unattended bags and packets lying around and other perceived threats".

"People are suffering from a lot of anxiety and fear. We have to deal with all these calls and send our men out to check whether their fears are true," he says. This in a city where, according to the police, barely a fifth of the calls received every day by the control room require attendance. The frenzy of calls hints at the growing fear in Mumbai after the attacks. On Friday afternoon, the control room received a flurry of calls from people saying that some gunmen had gone on another shooting spree in a few places, including the railway station. The information was found to be wrong - triggered by rumours swirling around the city in the wake of the attacks. But the rumours were powerful enough to set off a fresh wave of panic. Offices, schools and shops shut down and people scurried home. By late afternoon, downtown and south Mumbai had emptied. Offers of help Amid the clamour of ringing phones and the crackle of wireless in the control room, Mr Tayde receives a call from the city of Baroda, in the neighbouring state of Gujarat. "Why don't you send in some of your men inside the Taj hotel with teargas shells and start setting them off in the corridors?" the caller asks. "This will be a good way to overpower the gunmen," the man on the line advises. Mr Tayde mumbles something in reply, and puts down the phone with a hint of exasperation on his face.
"After the attacks, people have been calling up the control room from all over the country and giving us advice on how to take on the gunmen and handle the situation," he says. The callers are ordinary citizens or sometimes retired army and police officers. But then he also got a call from a woman in the city saying that her husband wanted to help in the operation at the Oberoi-Trident hotel to take out the gunmen. "My husband did the interiors in the hotel," she told the police. "If you want any help with the layout of the hotel in planning your rescue operations we can help." There have been calls from as far away as Nagpur, Delhi and even London, from people with advice for the police on how to handle the situation. "These people are usually well-meaning citizens who are all charged up after the attacks and want to help with suggestions. And we are getting a lot of such calls after the attacks," says Mr Tayde. Some of the callers are anxious relatives and friends of people trapped inside the hotels taken over by the gunmen, trying to discover the fate of their loved ones. 'I ran' Across the city, sitting on the sidewalk outside the Oberoi-Trident hotel, was Madhu Kapoor, wife of a banker trapped inside the hotel. She was relying on a helpline set up by the hotel for any information about her husband. Mrs Kapoor and her husband, Ashok, were dining at a restaurant with another couple when the gunmen stormed the hotel.
The diners were asked to leave the restaurant and run. As she ran out with her husband and scores of other people, she saw a man with an automatic weapon behind her in the scrum on the stairway. "Wait," the man told Mrs Kapoor. "I ran. I saw him firing on an old man next to him. I don't know what happened to the old man. I ran out of the exit door, but my husband was left behind." On Friday morning, the hotel informed her that her husband was safe. But she is still waiting for him to come out. Back at the control room, assistant commissioner Tayde and his men, working gruelling shifts, are hoping that the drama of terror ends soon and the phones stop ringing.

NDTV Reporter's diary

As NSG commandos launched their final assault at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, NDTV's Shaili Chopra sent us a report describing the action on the ground. We lie on the floor. Our hands have mikes, theirs have guns. Everyone has taken position and there's no end to the terrorist encounter at the Taj Mahal Palace outside the Gateway of India in Mumbai. The journalists and the forces are tracking the attack. There are reports of two terrorists inside with some hostages. Combat teams, paramilitary forces and the terrorists opened fire three times in the last one hour. The windows are broken, curtains flinging out of the rooms, the insides of the Taj, on day three of the encounter, remain abandoned. The police says one or two terrorists are holed up at the Crystal Ballroom in Taj along with a few hostages.Some people have been evacuated, others are inside rooms where the police is trying to reach. The lobby and porch are also key points of attack as police gherao that. The noises are sharp, the firing is intense and the scenes are hard to forget as pigeons fly in fear across the sky, changing the skyline, that's today filled with continuing smoke and sadness.

Mumbai terror attack planned 6 months ago
Friday, November 28, 2008 11:26 PM (Mumbai)
An arrested terrorist has revealed that the Mumbai terror attack operation was planned about six months ago.Investigators are examining satellite phone and GPS found on trawler seized in Arabian Sea.Sources have told NDTV that data from GPS revealed terrorists sailed from Karachi harbour on November 12 or 13. Their phone was used to call Lashkar commander Yusuf Muzamil in Muzaffarabad.The group of terrorists stayed in Karachi for about four days. The mobile phone found on a dead terrorist was used to make calls to Pakistan.On November 18, Coast Guard had warned of possibility of infiltration by sea route.

Times of India
Qaida in partnership with Lashkar in India

NEW DELHI: Terror does leave a calling card. As the enormity of the attack on Mumbai sank in, it seemed like the arrival of al-Qaida in India, a version of 9/11 designed to attract a global audience given the scale of violence and the planned targeting of westerners. With the capture of a terrorist, the actual authors were revealed. It wasn't the al-Qaida. But the jihadi credentials were not much less impressive with Lashkar-e-Taiba named as the suspect. Given the operation's obvious planning, few doubted it was the deadly firm of LeT-ISI in action yet again. Yet the difference between LeT and al-Qaida is not so significant as might have once been the case. In recent years, Lashkar has emerged as not only the single largest pan-Indian terror threat, but also a partner with al-Qaida in jihadi battlegrounds like Iraq, Chechnya and Afghanistan. It has shared training camps and cadre and used al-Qaida-Taliban facilities for a "jihad" against India. It has been proscribed by US and UK who have recognised LeT to be a global terrorist organisation. In UK, it has been allied to the Kashmiri underground, for long recognised as one of the easiest way to get into the jihadi circuit which leads to Pakistan. It poses as a charity and openly seeks donations in Pakistani cities for the "Kashmir cause" and its leader, Prof Hafiz Saeed, is allowed free movement apart from occasional cosmetic spells of house arrest. Before the Markaz-da'wa wal-irshad, the Lashkar's religio-political wing, was banned, its website regularly carried the view of its founder. Saeed's view of LeT's mission was quite unambiguous. He argued that Kashmir was the "gateway" to India, much of which comprised "lost Muslim lands". He saw jihad in Kashmir as a religious duty and fully identified himself with the 9/11 mayhem that Osama bin Laden wreaked. Aligned with the Ahl-e-Hadees sect, Lashkar was founded in 1987 by Saeed, who incidentally was also trained as an engineer like Osama and many other prominent jihadis, and who drew his inspiration from the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood — an organisation that saw Palestine as an Islamic cause way back in the 1930's. In collaboration with ISI, Lashkar built up an impressive Kashmir portfolio with recruits chiefly drawn from Pakistani Punjabis, Pashtoons, Bangladeshis, Arabs and south-east Asians. But its vision has never been Kashmir-centric as it bids to re-establish Muslim rule from Morocco to Indonesia and also eyes north Australia as part of its likely domain.

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