How the operation was planned and executed: Mumbai carnage

How the operation was planned and executed: Mumbai carnage

Mumbai : India | Nov 29, 2008 at 7:21 AM PST
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mumbai attack 28th november continue 37 hours nariman house

Investigators in the Indian city of Mumbai are beginning to piece together how gunmen carried out Wednesday's series of deadly attacks.

The exact sequence of events remains unclear, but security personnel are establishing a picture of how the operation was planned and executed.

All the signs, officials say, point to a well-planned action carried out by a highly trained, determined group.

The men appeared to have surveyed their targets in advance and were well-versed in the use of weapons and explosives, a Indian commando said.

Their intention, he said, was "to create and spread terror".

Investigators believe that a large group of men arrived in Mumbai from the sea around 2100 local time.

They believe that a larger ship - possibly a hijacked vessel, possibly an accomplice ship - brought them close to the shore before they switched to smaller dinghies.

Once ashore, they split into two-, three- and four-man groups to attack pre-selected targets.

Several of the attackers were caught on CCTV. Footage showed mainly young men, carrying automatic weapons and large rucksacks.

Officials said the rucksacks contained grenades, extra ammunition, plastic explosives and food supplies.

Multiple attacks

Reports suggest the attacks happened within minutes of each other.

One of the first targets was the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, where at least two men fired automatic weapons and threw grenades at crowds of people waiting in the main hall.

A second group opened fire at Café Leopold, a popular restaurant, while a third seized Nariman House, a business complex housing a Jewish outreach centre, taking several people hostage.

A fourth group - or, some reports say, the same one that attacked the station nearby - struck the Cama and Albless hospital for women and children. A number of drive-by shootings were also reported across the city.

By around 2200 local time gun fire was being reported at two of the city's luxury hotels - the Oberoi-Trident and The Taj palace.

Some guests managed to escape what they described as indiscriminate fire, while others sheltered in their rooms. Others were shot - exactly how many remains unclear.

The gunmen were looking for Americans and Britons, guests trapped at the hotels said, and hostages were taken in both locations.

Gunfire and small blasts continued to be heard at both hotels over the next several hours, as Indian troops surrounded the buildings. Fires broke out in both hotels.

In the early hours of Thursday, commando teams entered both hotels to try to find the gunmen.

Attackers at the Taj Mahal appeared familiar with the layout and moved continually around the building, firing their weapons. They definitely appeared to have been trained, the commando said.

"Not everybody can fire the AK series of weapons, not everybody can throw grenades like that," he said. "By using such weapons and explosives, it is obvious that they would have been trained somewhere."

The commandos went through the hotels floor by floor and room by room to flush out the attackers and free trapped guests and staff.

Reports that particular locations had been made safe were several times followed by fresh bursts of gunfire and explosions, and the crisis entered a third day.

By Friday afternoon (local time), Indian security forces said that they had control of the Oberoi. Multiple bodies had been found, they said.

Later that night, troops regained control of Nariman House. The bodies of five hostages were found inside.

In the early hours of Saturday, soldiers launched a renewed assault on the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. By mid-morning, they said that three gunmen were dead and they believed the siege was over - although room-to-room checks were necessary to confirm this. bbc news

razak is based in Doha, Doha, Qatar, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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