Saturday, November 29, 2008

Terrorists Killed - Operation Ends

Atlast....after a full 62 hours, it is officially declared that all the terrorists involved in the shootouts in Mumbai at Taj Mahal Hotel, Trident-Oberoi Hotel and the Jewish Center, Nariman House have been eliminated.

The operation to flush out terrorists from Taj Hotel is over, signalling an end to the 62-hour siege by terrorists three of whom were killed this morning in an assault by the elite commandos of National Security Guards.

However, the NSG is still sanitising the hotel to check if any remaining terrorist or explosive is still in the 400-room hotel, NSG Director General J K Dutt told media persons.

"The commandos killed three terrorists after intense gun-battle inside the hotel," Dutt said. An AK-47 rifle was also recovered from them.

"There was lot of shooting. Grenades were lobbed and explosives were used by the terrorists," he said. Dutt said the operation to secure the 100-year-old heritage hotel in Colaba area completely was still in progress and NSG was undertaking the combing operation.

"We cannot say the operation is over till we check the hotel. Each floor, each room will be checked to ensure that no more terrorist is hiding in the hotel or no explosives are hidden there, the NSG chief said. Giving details of the operation, Dutt said the terrorists would set afire the hotel rooms whenever they came under pressure from the NSG commandos.

This was to divert the attention of the NSG, he said, adding that the commandos were, however, undeterred by these tactics and continued their assault resulting in the success. "We are also looking for any surviving guests, still locked up in the rooms and not coming out for the fear of terrorist attack," Dutt said.

Dutt appealed to the surviving guests to open curtains of their windows to help them identify and rescue them while assuring that NSG has the expertise to neutralise the terrorists from the window. "The body which was seen falling out of the first floor window was of a terrorist," he said.

The forces had secured the other luxury hotel Trident Oberoi and a Jewish Centre on Friday while maintaining that a lone gunman continued to hold out inside the Taj hotel at the end of the pitched combat that left 30 hostages dead. At the Centre, a residential complex housing a prayer hall, commandos were air dropped from helicopters in first such operation in urban India during which the security forces spent the entire day to clear it. Two terrorists were killed but not before five of the hostages were eliminated by them.

When the Oberoi was cleared of the terrorists, as many as 30 hostages were found dead raising the toll in the worst terrorist strike against India to over 160, including 16 security personnel. Eleven terrorists were also eliminated and one was captured yesterday. Police Commissioner Hassan Gaffoor separately told media persons that four terrorists were holed up at the Taj and they were killed in the last two days. Over ten terrorists were holed up in the three buildings -- Taj, Oberoi-Trident and Nariman House in the South Mumbai, he said, adding nine of them killed and one captured.

Eyewitnesses said that there was carnage in the Oberoi's upper lobby restaurant 'Tiffin' and bodies were strewn all over in both the five star hotels. Eerie silence was slowly descending on the city as it was coming to terms with the terror attack. Most of the bodies were taken to J J hospital for post-mortem, which had been delayed as the morgues in the South Mumbai government hospital were full.

Surgeons from another government hospital were in Oberoi-Trident to examine bodies and attend to injured.

Jewish Center Stormed:

With a helicopter hovering overhead, Indian commandos on Friday morning stormed the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish center in Mumbai where hostages had been held since it was seized Wednesday by seaborne terrorists.

Moshe Holtzberg, who turns 2 on Saturday, was spirited out of the besieged center on Thursday. His parents, Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg of Brooklyn, who ran the center, were reported killed.

In the end, six of the hostages were killed, including the Brooklyn couple who operated the center.

As the thump of explosions and rattle of automatic weapons shook the six-story white building, blue-clad commandos slid down ropes from a helicopter to the roof and battled their way inside, according to witnesses.

Thoughout the day, gun battles raged in the building, Nariman House, and Reuters reported that the commandos had blown a breach in an outer wall. Late in the day, black-uniformed Indian reinforcements moved in, and a van with six medics in surgical gowns and masks was parked close by, apparently in anticipation of casualties.

Israeli officials and Lubavitch elders confirmed later that six hostages were found dead inside. They were Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, of Brooklyn, and his Israeli wife, Rivka, 28, the Lubavitch emissaries in Mumbai who ran Nariman House; another rabbi from Brooklyn who was living in Israel, Leibish Teitelbaum; Bentzion Chroman, an Israeli with dual American citizenship; an unidentified Israeli woman; and another unidentified woman, according to Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, a Lubavitch spokesman in Brooklyn, and The Associated Press.

In an earlier rescue that Lubavitch rabbis called heroic, the Holtzbergs’ toddler son, Moshe, who turns 2 on Saturday, was spirited out of the besieged house by the family’s nanny.

Officials in Israel offered additional details on Friday. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Israel radio that the terrorists had prepared for an advance by commandos and had set up an ambush inside the house.

When word of the terrorist attacks reached Brooklyn, officials of the Lubavitch Hasidic movement, which operates about 3,500 Jewish centers worldwide in 72 countries, mobilized at their headquarters on Eastern Parkway to secure information and issue calls for prayer for the safety of the hostages.

But shortly before 1 p.m. on Friday, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, the group’s chairman of educational and social services, announced, “We have just received news confirming the brutal murder of two of our finest.”

There were no immediate details on how and when Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife had died, officials said. But Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, the group’s vice chairman of education, said Rabbi Holtzberg was last heard from on Wednesday when he telephoned the Israeli Consulate in Mumbai, saying in Hebrew, “The situation is not good.” The line then went dead.

Rabbi Kotlarsky called the couple “very, very special people,” and choked back tears.

The Holtzbergs, who were married in Israel before moving to Mumbai in 2003, were no strangers to hardship and heartbreak, friends said. They had a child who died of a genetic illness, and another is seriously ill with the same ailment and is hospitalized in Israel.

Two months ago, a fire damaged the red brick Brooklyn home of Rabbi Holtzberg’s parents, Noah and Freida, said Joel Forta, who had lived next door until the fire forced him out. The rabbi’s father, he said, is a retired shochet, a kosher butcher, who now teaches young men how to slaughter animals according to Jewish law. His mother works six days a week at a store in Borough Park.

The parents had eight children, including Gavriel, Mr. Forta said. Another son, Avraham, he recalled, survived a savage stabbing in Postville, Iowa, in 2000. The assailant, Ronni Kachanes, who had been invited to the Holtzberg home for dinner and attacked Mr. Holtzberg there without apparent reason, was later sentenced to life, court records show.

"Jews will continue to visit India and make more friends across the country," Rabbi Vigler said.

During the past decade India has become a magnet for Jewish travelers and sojourners. There are an estimated 50,000 young Jews living for months in Goa and the Himalayan regions in India. Many of them have left Israel because of the tension triggered by terrorist attacks and the political situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Jewish organisations say 25,000 to 30,000 Israelis visit India every year, many are drawn to the ashrams and a mystical life. Many come for business including diamonds and handicrafts.

The ultra orthodox Jews in the Lubavitch Hassidic movement, which has its headquarters in Brooklyn's Crown Heights that runs the Chabad centres, are also strong believers in mysticism. The Chabad centre in Mumbai not only played host to Jews in general but also sought to offer its own mystical tradition to younger Jews.

The Chabad House in India is one of the 3,500 outposts run by the orthodox sect. There were plans to add several more Chabad centres in India in the next few years.

Outside the Lubavitch world headquarters on Eastern Parkway, former seminary classmates recalled Rabbi Holtzberg fondly.

Rabbi Dovid Zaklikowski, 27, said Rabbi Holtzberg was particularly proud of having recently established a mikvah, or ritual bath, for the 4,000-member Jewish community of Mumbai and of finding ways of keeping a kosher home.

But Rabbi Zaklikowski said: “He was a private individual. He did not say, ‘Oh, I made these great things.’ ”

He said Rabbi Holtzberg built the group’s Mumbai center virtually from scratch, raising money to move from a single room into larger quarters, and finally to Nariman House. The Chabad served as a community center for local and visiting Jews.

Rabbi Menachem Heller, 29, said Rabbi Holtzberg won a national Talmudic recitation competition in high school and traveled to Jerusalem for the international competition, where he came in second.

“This is what he wanted to do,” Rabbi Heller said. “As a youngster he would travel and teach and help people. In such a short time, he did things that people don’t do in a lifetime. Now looking back at what he did, it’s amazing.”

“They say that when God smacks, he smacks in the face, and it’s really true here,” Rabbi Heller said. But he said it was also a good lesson to take advantage of opportunities. “He never wasted any time,” he said. “He was always on the go. Working, studying, building.”

Yaron Levy, 26, a small-business owner, said that Mrs. Holtzberg’s father was one of the first Chabad emissaries in Israel and that she has a brother who also works as an emissary.

Rabbi Krinsky said the Holtzbergs would probably be buried in Israel on Sunday.

He expressed confidence that the attack would not deter Lubavitcher emissaries around the world.

“Nothing deters us,” he said.

How The Attack Was Planned:
Investigators working on the Mumbai terror attack have unearthed vital information about how the terrorists managed to enter Mumbai.

The interrogations of the two arrested terrorists, Abu Ismail and Ajmal Kamal, have revealed that 20 men were involved in the terror attack. While eight terrorists set up base in Hotel Trident and Taj Mahal Hotel, 12 others came to Mumbai in a boat.

Intelligence Bureau officials are trying to verify if the terrorists came in through the Persian Gulf.

The arrested terrorists have revealed that they hijacked two fishing boats and used them to come to Mumbai, armed with guns and ammunition.

He further stated that while one of the boats landed at Cuffe Parade near the fishermen's colony, the other landed at Sassoon dock.

The terrorists had initially planned to send in only one team to carry out the attacks and the other team was to be kept on stand-by.

However, the plan changed at the last minute, and the terrorists decided to execute the terror attacks together, Ismail reportedly told the police.

According to the officials of the Intelligence Bureau, the attacks had been planned in February, and this fact was confirmed by an arrested accused in the CRPF camp attack case. The accused had revealed that a Fidayeen attack had been ordered by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the target was Mumbai.

The accused had told the police that the LeT planned to attack the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Bombay Stock Exchange.

During his interrogation, Ismail admitted that he and his associates had undergone rigourous training for this operation, which had been planned meticulously.

Investigating officials are not ruling out the possibility of local elements providing logistical support to the terrorists.

Ismail further told the investigators that the terrorists had undergone extensive training in using AK-47 and grenades at a camp in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

During the training programme, they were shown the detailed layout of the Taj Mahal Hotel, in order to acquaint them with the topography of the places they would have to attack. After the training at PoK was complete, the entire team was shifted to Karachi, where they received training in sailing as their plan included entering India through the sea route.

Sources: and

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