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Americans Among The Dead In Mumbai Attacks


From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Alex Cohen. Coming up, Barack Obama has been in talks with Hillary Clinton to become his secretary of state. We'll hear what people in Europe, China and the Middle East think of that choice in just a few moments. But first, we go to Mumbai, India, where at least 150 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in coordinated terrorist attacks throughout the city. Among those killed: Americans Allen Scherr and his 13-year-old daughter. Also, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who ran the Chabad House in Mumbai. Today, a team of FBI agents were ordered to fly to India to investigate the attacks. Earlier, we spoke with reporter Anuj Chopra in Mumbai. We asked him to comment on what was going on at that time, at the Chabad House.

ANUJ CHOPRA: This morning, there were paramilitary forces, commandos who got off the helicopter on the roof of this Jewish center to try to take control of it. They've been engaged in this action all this morning. I was speaking to someone who owned an apartment in a building in that neighborhood. We can see right inside that building, right through that building. And she told me that the commandos had seized control of the fourth and the first floor, and there are terrorists and their hostages were confined to the second floor. I heard news reports that they have seized control of the entire Jewish center this evening. Like what I said, I heard gunshots, which sort of left doubts in my mind that things aren't entirely under control.

COHEN: There are also Indian forces present at the Taj Mahal Hotel, a luxury hotel. Do we know about how things are going there?

CHOPRA: I'm actually standing right in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel as I speak with you. This has been going on for the last three days. We hear these deafening grenade explosions somewhere inside the hotel, and also roars of gunfire breaking at irregular intervals. This evening, I saw paramilitary forces in front of the hotel, and they were up to something. They were trying to get in, trying to seize control. So, it's obviously not over yet. I was interviewing a bomb-diffusing expert who said it's a little difficult to seize control of this huge structure because of the sheer size and the architecture. You know, you get inside and there are mirrors almost everywhere. There are lots of mirrors. And anyone who tries climbing upstairs sort of implicitly warns - gives the warning to - the guy on the top sort of knows that someone is trying to approach him. And it just makes their job very difficult. Inside, we also understand that these hostages that were taken are being used as human shield which, I guess, just makes the job more time-consuming. It's been three days and India's still - the authorities here are still struggling with seizing back control of this hotel, this iconic hotel in Mumbai.

COHEN: Anuj, briefly, is there any news on who might be responsible for these attacks?

CHOPRA: We've heard the name of this unknown Jihadi group called the Deccan Mujahideen. And this is only the first time I've heard of this name. India's more familiar with another Jihadi group called the Indian Mujahideen, which is doing the rounds in months after several cities were bombed. But there are terror experts who say that you shouldn't take names seriously. These are just disguises of the radical Islamic groups that are based in Islamabad, that are based in Pakistan. I guess it's - considering the fact that this is still unfolding, it's sort of shocking that these terrorists entered this iconic building, the fact that they've been going on for three days. I remember the Indian parliament was attacked in 2001, and the Indian authorities managed to gun them down in a matter of a few minutes. But this is just taking forever, it seems.

COHEN: Anuj Chopra is a freelance journalist in Mumbai, India. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.