Friday, November 28, 2008
By JUSTIN DAVENPORT , RASHID RAZAQ and NICOLA BODEN
Last updated at 7:39 PM on 28th November 2008
British-born Pakistanis were among the Mumbai terrorists, Indian government sources claimed today, as the death toll rose to at least 155.
As many as seven of the terrorists may have British connections and some could be from Leeds and Bradford where London's July 7 bombers lived, one source said.
Two Britons were among eight gunmen being held, according to Mumbai's chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. At least nine others are reportedly dead.
The eight arrested were captured by commandos after they stormed two hotels and a Jewish centre to free hostages today. Despite the Indian authorities' assurances that the situation was under control, the siege continued at the Taj Mahal hotel and explosions could still be heard in central Mumbai.
One security official said: 'There is growing concern about British involvement in the attacks.'
But Gordon Brown has urged caution. He emerged from a conversation with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to say there was no suggestion of a British link.
'At no point has the prime minister of India suggested to me that there is evidence at this stage of any terrorist of British origins, but obviously these are huge investigations that are being done and I think it will be premature to draw any conclusions at all,' Mr Brown said.
Senior Whitehall sources said it was too early to say whether there had been any involvement by British nationals but that security services, working with overseas partners, would be looking at any potential links to the UK.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith also said UK authorities had "no knowledge" of any British links with the massacre, while Foreign Secretary David Miliband said it was "too early to say" whether any of the terrorists were British.
As authorities tried to piece together the identities and motivations of the attackers, special forces were still battling with gunmen.
At the five-star Taj Mahal Hotel, officers were still locked in combat with up to six militants believed to be holed up in the ballroom.
The Indian authorities thought they had ended the siege there last night after they shot dead three terrorists and released hundreds of hostages, but it raged again today.
In a major army operation, soldiers threw grenades at the walls in a bid to smoke out the militants. Four bystanders were reported wounded in the crossfire.
Mumbai officials say more than 155 people in total have now died in the attacks. Another 370 were wounded.
Scroll down for moreEnlarge
The tragic figures include the bodies of another five hostages who were found dead inside the Nariman House Jewish Centre this afternoon after commandos finally secured the building.
Two militants were also killed. It is not known whether the Rabbi and his wife who were believed to be among the hostages are dead or alive.
Around 20 masked officers had raided the centre this morning, dropping from helicopters onto the roof, in an operation dubbed Operation Black Tornado.
Hours of heavy fighting ensued as they moved from floor after floor. As dusk fell, there was a massive explosion and it appeared to be over.
Across the city at the Oberoi Hotel, the siege ended when two militants were shot dead.
Dozens of traumatised guests emerged unharmed but inside there were scenes of carnage and the bodies of another 24 victims.
Many of those freed had been locked in their rooms, terrified, for 41 hours while the gunmen rampaged.
Today, around 100 people were rescued and struggling to absorb their ordeal. One man was clutching a tiny baby in his arms as he walked out.
British lawyer Mark Abell emerged with a beaming smile, saying: 'I'm going home, I'm going to see my wife. '
The 51-year-old told how he had spent the night listening to gunshots and explosions and communicating with the outside world on his phone and Blackberry.
Describing the scene when he was eventually led to safety, he said it was 'carnage' with 'blood and guts everywhere'.
'I was supposed to be working in Delhi but I think I have had more than my fair share of my business trip so I am looking forward to going home to see my family,' he said.
A number of the hostages were airline staff still wearing their Lufthansa and Air France uniforms when they emerged from the building.
As they came out some carried luggage with Canadian flags, and two women were dressed in black abayas, traditional Muslim women's garments.
Others were not so lucky. Reported dead tonight was an American and his 13-year-old daughter as well as the wife and two children of the Taj hotel's general manager.
Foreigners from Japan, Australia, Italy and Germany and one Briton - tycoon Andreas Liveras - have already been confirmed as among the victims.
At least eight Britons were injured and there are fears the British toll could yet rise further as more and more buildings are made stable and searched.
Earlier, one commando revealed he had seen around 50 bodies littering the Taj hotel floor after special officers stormed the building and rescued hundreds of guests.
Clad in black, with a mask covering his face, the unit chief said: 'There was blood all over the bodies. The bodies were strewn here and there and we had to be careful as we entered the building to avoid further bloodshed of innocent civilians.'
The terrorists had seemed like young, ordinary men but had clearly been very well trained, he said.
'They were wearing T-shirts, just ordinary looking, but they have definitely been trained to use weapons. There is no way they could handle such weapons without being taught how to.'
At least nine terrorists are thought to have been shot dead in gun battles across the city as police and special forces tried to regain control.
Three arrested at the Taj Mahal have been officially identified as a Pakistani national and two Indians. Another is reported to be a Mauritian national.
They arrived in the city by sea before fanning out to at least 10 locations. Dinghies were found moored at a jetty by the famous Gateway to India monument.
Today, coast guard officials said they could have hijacked an Indian trawler to drop them off after finding an abandoned boat drifting near the shore.
The captain's dead body was found inside the vessel, along with communications equipment.
Dressed in jeans and T-shirts and heavily armed, they then headed for the city - which is India's financial centre - and started firing indiscriminately.
It is thought they gained entrance to the hotels by pretending to be staff and hotel guests, according to reports.
Indian authorities have not released any details about the two Britons and the Foreign Office has refused to confirm Indian television reports.
Security services in Britain are now examining images of the gunmen in an effort to identify them.
India's High Commissioner Shiv Shankar Mukherjee played down speculation some of the gunmen were British: 'I have seen nothing more than what is in the media and that is based on speculation. I will wait for the investigation to produce some hard facts.'
Speculation linking the attackers with Bradford was quashed by the Leeds-based Counter Terrorism Unit.
A statement from officers said: "At this stage we are not in receipt of any intelligence or information linking the events in India to our area."
A team of Scotland Yard anti-terrorist detectives and negotiators are now on their way to Mumbai to assist in the investigation.
Indian commandos have recovered credit cards and the militants' ID cards as well as seizing a vast arsenal of grenades, AK-47 magazines, shells and knives.
A previously unknown Islamic group, Deccan Mujahideen, has claimed responsibility for the attacks but terror experts believe is is linked to Al Qaeda.
It is known that dozens of British-born Pakistanis have travelled to Pakistan to train in its camps in recent years.
One security source said recently: 'The camps are full and many of the people inside are Brits.'
There has been speculation that a British Al Qaeda suspect reportedly killed by a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan last weekend may have helped plot the attacks.
Rashid Rauf was among five killed in a missile attack in a tribal area in North Waziristan on Saturday.
Security sources believe that at the time of his death Rauf had been planning a major attack on Western targets.
Met officers were also interviewing passengers returning from Mumbai as they stepped off planes at Heathrow.
There was also speculation that England cricketers could have been an intended target of the terrorists.
It emerged that some of the team had been due to stay in Mumbai, most likely the Taj Mahal, on Wednesday evening before a late decision was made to switch training to Bangalore.
Shocked player Michael Vaughan said: 'I don't know why it was switched but we could have been there in one of those hotels when they were attacked.
'All our white Test kit is in one of the rooms at the Taj Mahal hotel: All our pads and clothes for the Test series and our blazers and caps and ties. That's how close the danger is.'
The England team will fly back to Britain today.
The bloody drama which began on Wednesday night has now lasted more than two days. The targets across the city were:
About 15 police officers were killed, including the head of Mumbai's anti-terrorism unit.
India's prime minister Manmohan-Singh has blamed militant groups based outside the country - usually meaning Pakistan - raising fears of renewed tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals. Pakistan condemned the attacks.
The attack on the train station had echoes of previous terror outrages.
In July 2006 more than 180 people were killed in seven bomb explosions at railway stations and on trains in Mumbai that were blamed on Islamist militants.
Robert Ballard became famous as the explorer who found the wreckage of the Titanic. But what most people don't know about that expedition is that Ballard also secretly worked with the U.S. Navy to learn more about two lost nuclear submarines.
Ballard shared that nugget when he came to the Tampa Bay area last week for the Coastal Cities Summit, organized by the University of South Florida and other institutions. He spoke with the St. Petersburg Times about the Titanic and his underwater exploration career.
When you wanted to search for theTitanic, did you make an arrangement with the military?
I can only tell you now because they declassified this a few months ago. The Navy was not interested in the Titanic. … I mean, they funded the technology because it had so many military applications. And I was a naval intelligence officer for 30 years, and so I did a lot of missions for the Navy. Many remain classified, my best stuff. Rats …
Yes, the Titanic was a cover for a series of military operations. The Titanic was here, and over here was the Scorpion and over here was the Thresher (as he says this, he arranges three objects on a tabletop, roughly in a line, the center one depicting the Titanic).
And had that not occurred, I probably would not have found the Titanic because they wouldn't have funded me. I mean, if the Titanic was in the Indian Ocean, it'd probably still be in the Indian Ocean. But … it was straddled by two very interesting subs that we had lost — and the Scorpion was lost on war patrol … and it was carrying nuclear weapons. So it was a very hot sub to the Navy …
So the Navy said, look, we never actually tracked that all down, we never found the reactors, we never did environmental studies on them, nor did we ever find the weapons. We'll fund you to build all this stuff and we'll fund you to find the Titanic, although we don't expect you to find it because we're going to have you work most of the time on these subs and give you very little time to actually find the Titanic. I said, I'll take whatever I can get.
What was different about exploring the Titanic compared to other shipwrecks?
I've dove on wrecks and they get totally encrusted. The older they are, the more they don't look like wreckage. The Titanic was a museum piece. I mean, when you came down to it, you could look in the window and bounce your lights off the mirrors, and the chandeliers were hanging from the overhead. I mean, you went to a haunted house. And no one had ever seen a haunted house in the deep sea before. We'd seen some on military missions that we couldn't talk about, but they weren't that old. The Titanic was pretty old, three-quarters of a century at the time. I was surprised to see the manufacturer's name on everything … because of the deep sea. The deep sea is pitch black, you can't have photosynthesis, so you don't have all this marine life. It's freezing cold and deep pressure, no currents to abrade it to speak of, just enough to polish the brass.
Of all the explorations you have done, I wonder if there was a moment when you were … scared?
Oh, several times … I've had very close calls, enough that I don't want to play the statistical game. That's why I like robots. I had several (close calls). A fire at 9,000 feet in a 9-foot capsule when my emergency breathing system didn't work. That's scary. Right off of the Cayman Islands, I made a 20,000-foot dive and crashed on the way down into the side of a volcano, ruptured my flotation tanks, and barely made it back to the surface … so I really like telepresence. Trash the robot and go, "I'm so sorry."