India Reeling From Mumbai Rampage
ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
From NPR News, it's All Things Considered. I'm Andrea Seabrook. The siege on Mumbai, India is over. Government commandos killed the last few gunmen who'd been holed up at the Taj Mahal Hotel today. That ended a brutal two and a half days that started when militants rampaged through the city grabbing hostages and killing indiscriminately. At least 195 people are dead, hundreds more injured, and the world is in shock. President Bush spoke today in Washington.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: The killers who struck this week are brutal and violent, but terror will not have the final word. People of India are resilient. People of India are strong. They have built a vibrant, multiethnic democracy that can withstand this trial.
SEABROOK: The violence has heightened age-old tensions between India and its neighbor, Pakistan. Charges flew back and forth today from India that militants in Pakistan might have been involved from Pakistan that troops might be moved to the Indian border. Meanwhile, back in Mumbai, people are just beginning to take stock of what some there are calling India's 9/11. NPR's Philip Reeves has this story.
PHILIP REEVES: This is the first time Verinda Bahud(ph) has ventured outside his home since the assault on Mumbai began. He's wandering down the street looking a little dazed. His apartment is right by the Taj Mahal Hotel.
Mr. VERINDA BAHUD: I still here for three days. I could hear the gunshots, everything.
REEVES: Is this the first time you've come out?
Mr. BAHUD: Yeah.
Mr. BAHUD: Yeah.
REEVES: Bahud spent the last three days watching the siege next door on TV minute by minute. Friends bombarded him with calls warning him not to go out onto his balcony because he might be shot. Today, Bahud is breathing a huge sigh of relief. So is the city of Mumbai.
(Soundbite of people talking)
REEVES: Outside the Taj Mahal, there's a huge throng of cameramen and reporters clamoring for information. Not long ago, there was an intense firefight here. India's so called Black Cat Commandos were battling with three diehard gunmen in the hotel's vast maze of corridors and halls. Fires broke out on the ground and first floors. Smoke bellowed out over the hotel's onion domes and up into the hazy early morning sky.
REEVES: Is it finished?
Unidentified Man: Ah, finished, yes, hopefully finished.
REEVES: As firemen douse the flames, a senior policeman confirms the siege is over. The last three gunmen in the hotel are dead. The battle of the Taj Mahal was the final stand of the remnants of a band of militants who arrived Wednesday, some by boat, fanned out and rampaged through India's commercial capital.
They indiscriminately mowed down people in their path. The authorities are still counting the dead. The gunmen attacked one of the world's busiest railway stations, one of the city's most popular tourist cafes, two of its five star hotels, several hospitals, and a Jewish center.
Attention is now switching to exactly who carried out these attacks and how they were able to do so without being detected. The political fallout has started even though mourning the dead has hardly begun. Indians are accusing elements in Pakistan, an allegation the Pakistanis say is unfair. The attacks also threatened to add strain to the already fragile relations between India's Hindu majority and its 160 million Muslims.
Mr. KAHLID MAMU: (Unintelligible) S1, yeah.
REEVES: That's why Khalid Mamu(ph) is wandering the streets close by the Taj Mahal carrying his mobile phone. He has some videos on it which he wants us to see.
Mr. MAMU: Now, this is the lady in the passage now.
REEVES: Is she alive?
Mr. MAMU: No, she's dead. And her husband was laying inside the living room. Their window, living room window faced directly to the terrorists, and the terrorists turned around and shot these two, husband and wife. They were Muslims who got shot.
REEVES: That couple was at home when they were shot by gunman holed up next door at the Jewish center, the scene of another siege in which six Israelis were killed. At the height of that siege, Mamu helped get the couple's bodies out. He's a Muslim social worker.
India has seen some terrible communal bloodletting after past terrorist attacks, including in Mumbai. Mamu doesn't think that could happen these days, but he wants to be sure that the carnage in Mumbai doesn't do more damage to communal relations. He shows another video in which he rescues a group of trapped residents from under the militant's guns. He says his family tried to stop him.
Mr. MAMU: They call me 24/7. Where are you? Come home, come home. My sister calls me from America. Where are you? Oh, I'm right underneath the house. She said, you're lying. I just saw you on TV running across with some lady. You know, my family is dead worried about me, but what I have to worry about is God.
REVEES: Mamu leans across to a young man who stopped in the street to listen to his story. He touches a beaded bracelet on the man's wrist.
Mr. MAMU: I believe he's a Hindu. He's wearing this. I am more concerned about saving his life. I don't care about what my wife might - I want to make use of my life. I want to represent my religion.
REEVES: The passerby is indeed a Hindu. His name is Ashudash Dalel(ph).
Mr. ASHUDASH DALEL: Perfectly, what do you see? Because there are many less number of people like me, and I'm thinking on the same lines. As he said, some people just don't want things to go normal.
Mr. MAMU: I want people in the world to know it is also Muslims dying, number one. Number two, it is Muslim's like me, also risking our lives to do whatever to save the fellow human being. I want to be an example for people who put down Islam saying, no, there is - all Muslims are terrorists. No, all Muslims are not terrorists. Terrorism has no religion and no race. They don't care. They just - their main objective is to put fear in our hearts, scare us. They just want to do that.
REEVE: The important thing, Mamu says, is not to play into the hands of terrorists by living in fear and erecting barricades. He thinks that was the mistake America made after 9/11. And he says the city of Mumbai won't be repeating it.
Mr. MAMU: Look at it right now today. It's only been three hours that the terrorists are dead, and the public has all come out. It's already turned back into normal. Shops are open. Taxis are running. Buses are running. We are out. I'm here. Everybody is here.
REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Mumbai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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