Mumbai was struck by multiple terror attacks since the night of 26 November 2008. The terrorist attacks, described as the worst on Mumbai ever, have claimed 125 lives, left 327 injured and sent more than 900 to the hospital. Shootouts and explosions rattled 12 key locations in Mumbai including two luxury hotels, the domestic airport, a railway station, two hospitals and cinema multiplexes and a cafe popular with western tourists.
The terrorists are holding 40 British nationals and other foreigners as hostages in the Oberoi’s Trident Hotel and Café Leopold. The blasts and attacks at these places suggest the terrorists are targeting foreign tourists and aim at international attention.
The attacks have also claimed the lives of 14 high-ranking police officers, including the chief of Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Encounter Specialist Vijay Salaskar, who were killed while discharging their duty.
No incidents of attack or casualty are reported from any of the three temples of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) located in Mumbai at Chowpatty, Juhu and Mira Road.
In response to the attacks, all three temples have stepped up security checks and are on high alert. ISKCON Mira Road has reportedly increased security personnel at the main gate. ISKCON Chowpatty, which is located in South Mumbai and closest to the site of ongoing attacks has closed its doors to the public at the request of Mumbai Police. Two terrorists were gunned down by police barely 50 meters away from ISKCON Chowpatty.
ISKCON Juhu, the largest of the three temples in Mumbai, which attracts a considerable number of foreign tourists, is on especially high-alert. The management is in constant touch with the Police Department and an additional team of 20 policemen have been deployed outside the temple to an already existing force of 10 police personnel. Almost 85 close-circuit TVs have been installed throughout the temple premises and are constantly monitored by at least 5 security personnel. P. Govinda Dasa, General Manager, informed, “We are taking every possible precaution to ensure the safety of our visitors and guests at the temple. We have stopped all inflow of vehicles inside the temple premises and anyone who visits the temple is thoroughly checked. We have also requested the devotees to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity immediately.”
Bhaktivedanta Hospital, a general hospital founded by doctors who have embraced the Hare Krishna philosophy, did not report any incidence of terror or admission of any victims. Madhavananda Dasa, Director - Bhaktivedanta Hospital, reports that the Community Health Forum unit of the Hospital has initiated a Blood Donation Drive whereby citizens of Mumbai shall be requested to donate blood to be used for victims or forwarded to St. George Hospital which is treating the injured from the attacks in large numbers. He also mentioned that the hospital’s Disaster Management Cell is prepared to handle casualties, if needed.
Deccan Mujahedeen, a previously unknown terrorist outfit, have claimed responsibility for the attacks. The terrorists reportedly arrived by boat from the iconic landmark Gateway of India and thereafter dispersed to various locations in Mumbai to carry out terror attacks. Terrorists used heavy machine guns, including AK-47s, and grenades.
Almost 800 National Security Guards (NSG), sharp shooters of army, navy commandos and other security forces arrived in Mumbai from New Delhi to deal with the unspecified number of terrorists.
Congregation members of ISKCON Chowpatty, who had gathered at a devotee’s home in South Mumbai for spiritual discourse, were interrupted with loud sounds of grenade firing at around 9:30pm on the night of the initial attacks. While the devotees residing near the venue rushed back home an hour after the firing stopped, most members with children residing in western and central parts of Mumbai stayed back and returned to the safety of their homes in the early morning.
Rahul Shetty, a young ISKCON member who arrived at the CST railway station after returning from work mentioned, “There was complete chaos at CST station when I arrived. Terrorist were firing bullets indiscriminately at hundreds of citizen at the station. People dropped their belongings and were running for shelter but didn’t know where to go to escape the attacks. The police arrived after a few minutes and an encounter ensued between them and the terrorists. The terrorists also threw 5-6 hand grenades in the air and thereafter the gun battle with the police was followed by another round of hand grenades. As I stood 100 meters away from the shoot out site I saw the police clear the road of all people and vehicular traffic. Almost 25-30 ambulances arrived on the scene to move the injured to nearby hospitals”.
While gun battles still rage between terrorists and national security forces, an indefinite number of foreigners including Canadian, Americans and Israelis are believed to be trapped in Hotel Trident and Nariman House, a residential complex with a Jewish prayer hall, in South Mumbai. Ramesh Tayde, a senior police officer from Mumbai, reports that at least nine foreigners have been killed in the attacks so far.
The hostage situation at the Taj Mahal Hotel has resolved but the police suspect one terrorist is still holed up in the hotel. Seven people have recently been evacuated from Nariman House but the stand-off situation in Hotel Trident and Nariman House continues. The commandos are reportedly engaging 2-3 terrorist in Hotel Trident and 3-4 terrorists in Nariman House at the time of publication. The Mumbai Police are hopeful they can finish up operations shortly.