Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai attack: Terrorists seemed to be sure of Taj terrain

28 Nov 2008, 2105 hrs IST, Devraj Dasgupta, TNN

MUMBAI: The battle-scarred Marine Commandos, engaged to flush out terrorists from the Taj hotel, are surprised at the level of training their

adversaries evidently received and the money and the massive firepower at their disposal. The commandos have also been shocked by the familiarity and ease with which the terrorists operated inside the Taj and the Trident.

The Marine Commandos, popularly known as Marcos, are men handpicked by the Indian Navy to undertake combat and rescue operations on sea and, if required, on land. Maharashtra chief secretary Johnny Joseph was quick to seek their help on Wednesday evening till the National Security Guards (NSG) team arrived from Delhi on Thursday morning.

The Marcos managed to rescue almost 200 people, locked up in a room on the second floor of the Taj's new wing, on Thursday morning. ``The terrorists fired several rounds at us though they did run away to another floor after the Marcos closed in from all sides,'' Joseph said. The Marcos found a rucksack, containing seven fully loaded AK-47 magazines, 400 empty rounds of AK-47 and four made-in-China grenades.

The hotels had four-five terrorists, each carrying haversacks, leading commandos to admit that the terrorists together had enough firepower to remain holed up for days together if they were not gunned down.

The bag the terrorists left behind also contained seven credit cards and a Mauritian identity card, all apparently belonging to one person. The bag had Rs 6,840 and $1,200 (about Rs 60,000).

``The terrorists were well-informed about the layout of both the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi Trident. It's absolutely certain that these men had done a survey of the hotel interiors before the strike on Wednesday night,'' the Marcos' commandant said.

The terrorists even knew which room had the closed-circuit television cameras, which would give them a clear view of the alleys and lobbies of the entire Taj, and reached and captured the room before the commandos did. ``The terrorists hurled grenades the moment commandos neared the CCTV room and it could not be accessed because of the smoke and fire that followed,'' he said.

The Marcos found operating in the dark difficult despite their vast experience but the terrorists quite comfortably ran between the Taj's new and heritage wing, engaging the Marcos in tackle-and-dodge combat commonly seen in the Kashmir valley, officials said.

But what the terrorists lacked was any remorse or compunction, the commandos said, referring to the spraying of bullets on hotel guests.

* A bag left behind by the terrorists at the Taj had seven credit cards (including those of ICICI Bank, HSBC and Citigroup)
* It also had cash, Rs 6,840 in Indian currency and $1,200

Mumbai attack: Terrorists seemed to be sure of Taj terrain
Times of India, India