Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Devastation revealed as troops end Mumbai siege

The true picture of devastation inside the Taj Mahal hotel was revealed today as the authorities took back control after a three-day siege.

The massacre at locations across Mumbai claimed the lives of 195 people - including one Briton - and left 295 wounded, officials said today.

The Foreign Office said it has "no evidence" that any of the terrorists were British.

Indian commandos killed the last of the gunmen holed up in the 565-room hotel, the authorities said, and guests who had cowered in upstairs rooms were led to safety as the grim task of removing bodies began.

Briton Richard Farah described seeing trails of blood, broken glass and shoes as commandos led him out of the fire-damaged luxury hotel.

Mr Farah hid his passport inside his false leg and spent about 25 hours barricaded in his room thinking he was "a goner", he told Sky News.

"I had hidden my passport in my leg, in the lining of the leg. If they had come to get me they wouldn't have found a passport."

The terrorists were reported to be seeking British and American passport holders.

After arriving at Heathrow Mr Farah said: "In the last few hours there were so many explosions and the floors shook. I said 'I'm a goner' because it was right below me."

Mr Farah said commandos eventually kicked down his door and led him down the stairs. He said he saw blood on every floor.

"Eventually we got to the lobby. I saw all the blood and broken glass and shrapnel... tonnes of blood and shoes, people's shoes, women's shoes, men's shoes."

Mr Farah, who lives in Trinidad but has family in London, said his life may have been saved by his decision to go to his room rather than stay in the bar where gunmen "just sprayed the place".

"That's where I would have been if I had not gone up to my room. So I just count myself lucky."

The nationality of the terrorists is still unclear today although Indian officials said the sole surviving gunman was from Pakistan.

Reports from India yesterday suggested that UK-born Muslims were involved in the massacre but a spokesman for the Foreign Office said last night: "We have spoken to Indian authorities at a high level and they have said that there is no evidence that any of the terrorists, either captured or dead, are British."

Reports today said seven of the gunmen had British links and quoted Indian sources claiming that suspects from Leeds, Hartlepool and Bradford as well as British-born Pakistanis were involved.

Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra state - of which Mumbai is the capital - was reported yesterday to have said that two Pakistanis of British descent were among those arrested.

The Foreign Office spokesman said Mr Deshmukh "said no such thing either publicly or privately".

Speculation linking the attackers with Bradford, West Yorkshire, was dismissed 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."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had spoken to India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, who "at no point" suggested there was evidence 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," he added.


Above: one of the first images from inside the Taj Mahal hotel

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith also said UK authorities had "no knowledge" of any British links with the massacre.

A team of detectives from Scotland Yard is flying to Mumbai to help Indian authorities with the investigation.

British yachting tycoon Andreas Liveras, 73, died in the massacre and at least eight Britons were injured.

Among them was 29-year-old Harnish Patel, from Havant, Hampshire, who was shot in the ribs and legs.

This morning he was recovering from an operation to his chest and said he was in a lot of pain.

India's foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, told reporters preliminary information suggested "some elements in Pakistan are responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks".

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today insisted his country was not involved.

The Indian navy today said it is investigating whether a trawler found drifting off the coast of Mumbai, with a bound corpse on board, was used in the attack.

Navy spokesman Captain Manohar Nambiar said the trawler, named Kuber, had been found on Thursday and was taken to Mumbai.

Officials said they believe the boat had sailed from a port in the neighbouring state of Gujarat.

Indian security officers believe many of the gunmen may have reached the city using a black and yellow rubber dinghy found near the site of the attacks.

A previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Indian commandos also ended a siege of Mumbai's luxury Oberoi Hotel last night, freeing at least 25 captives, while other forces descended from helicopters to storm a Jewish centre where nine bodies were found.

The management of the Taj Mahal hotel today said they did not believe that any employee was involved in the attack.

Raymond Bickson, chief executive and managing director of The Indian Hotels Company Limited, said the authorities had given no indications that "any employee or contractual staff of the hotel have been involved as part of this terrorist attack".

His statement praised the "heroic actions" of the security forces and added: "We are enormously saddened at the loss of life amongst the brave men who carried out this action."

He said the hotel management currently had only limited access to the building due to security measures.

The attacks are the worst on Mumbai since 1993 when serial bombings killed 257.

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