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THE SITUATION ROOM
At Least 78 Dead in India Attacks
Aired November 26, 2008 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news this hour: Westerners held hostage in India after a series of brazen coordinated attacks, deadly attacks, all across the nation's financial capital. Teams of heavily armed gunmen struck nine locations, two luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, a hospital, a crowded train station, among others.
The city formerly known as Bombay effectively under siege as we speak. Witnesses say the attackers were looking for people with U.S. and British passports. At least 78 people are dead, 200 hundred wounded. The State Department says it does not know of any American casualties, but of course it's still checking and of course it is very difficult to get information right now.
A short while ago, about 50 people were rescued from one hotel targeted, the Taj Hotel, where an explosion unleashed a raging fire which you have seen here on CNN. Troops moved into a second hotel under attack. Authorities say two suspected militants have been gunned down.
There are unconfirmed reports that a little known group calling itself Deccan Mujahedeen has claimed responsibility.
Let's bring in Zain Verjee now and get some further details on what we're hearing from the State Department and others -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, firstly, we're getting some information from our sister network, IBN.
They're reporting now that the army has entered the Oberoi Hotel. That's the hotel, Miles, extremely popular with the business elite, with politicians, celebrities, including all these Bollywood stars, because Mumbai is where everyone is at. That's their version of Hollywood where all the movies come out.
So, that is the hotel that many of them frequent. Police forces are also right now inside the Taj Hotel. We are learning, too, that schools and colleges in Mumbai are closed and police are urging people just to stay at home and don't leave -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Zain Verjee watching that for us. Thank you very much.
Let's go now to the Pentagon. Barbara Starr has been getting reports there through the military, as the military tries to assess what is going on in India as well. Barbara, what are you hearing?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, at this hour, not just the U.S. military, but the intelligence services are looking at this closely. U.S., British and Indian intelligence services beginning now to communicate and share what little information and details they have.
One cannot really say often enough that this story is continuing to unfold. There are no totally confirmed facts at this point. People are looking at the information here at the Bush administration, here in the Pentagon and trying to come to some judgments about what they are seeing.
So, here is what we are being told by our sources, one very interesting fact emerging. They are looking at the possibility that, in fact, there were two vehicles used in these attacks as explosive devices. Now, if this does turn out to be confirmed, it would be very interesting, another sort of mark, if Islamic extremists.
One of our counterterrorism sources saying to us, when you look at the multiple coordination, the multiple targets, the timing, everything that appeared to go into this, it does lead you to the prospect that this was an Islamic terrorist group.
Now, the Deccan Mujahedeen has claimed public responsibility for it, but I have to tell you, as I believe my colleague Kelli Arena reported previously, the Bush administration, the intelligence services looking a little deeper than that. At this hour, they are looking at the possibility a very well known group in region called that area called Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, one of the most militant Islamic organizations in South Asia, might have been involved in it.
The LET comes out of Afghanistan, comes out of Pakistan, very militant in previous attacks against India to challenge its rule in the areas of Jammu and Kashmir, in fact, LET already banned by Pakistan.
Nothing confirmed. We have to keep saying it, but this group, Lashkar-e--Tayyaba, is one of the groups that the U.S. administration at this hour now looking at the possibility that they were involved. And if they find some additional evidence of that, that will certainly lead intelligence analysts to go a step further and try and come to some determination if al Qaeda, al Qaeda-affiliated groups, or other Islamic groups, militant groups, might have been involved in the planning, recruiting, coordination, getting the weapons, the money, the organization together.
This is a very, you know, concerning attack, by virtue of the fact the number of targets, the simultaneous attack on these targets, and the fact that this was carried off without anybody having any apparent clue that this was coming, no indication that the Indian intelligence services, the British or the U.S. had any signal, any sign that this was in the works. So, they will be looking at all of this very closely in the coming hours and days.
O'BRIEN: Of course, the reports we have had from the scene is that just a week ago, they lowered security right around that area, so, clearly, there was not much of a clue. This group, the LET, Barbara, what is it about this attack that leads the authorities to believe it might somehow be responsible? They have not called up and laid claim, have they?
STARR: Not to best of our knowledge. To be very candid, it is what we are hearing from sources that is now being discussed at some of the highest levels here in Washington tonight. They are looking at it.
They have no confirmation. It is not at all clear that they will find that LET was involved. But why they are looking at it is -- again, it is one of the most hard-line militant Islamic organizations in South Asia. They have a long history of engaging in attacks against Indian rule. They have been very active in Pakistan, though it is our understanding that the Musharraf government officially banned them some time back. So, they will be looking to see if they were involved -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much. Please stay nearby. We will be back with you as developments warrant. We have been starting to piece together a little more dimension to this story, as we have been hearing from some witnesses.
Joining us on the line right now is a businesswoman who happened to be in a restaurant in Mumbai and watched a lot of this transpire.
Manuela Testolini is on the line with us. Ms. Testolini, can you hear me?
MANUELA TESTOLINI, WITNESS: Yes, I can hear you.
O'BRIEN: All right, tell me what you saw and heard in this evening and into the morning there.
O'BRIEN: Well, we are here on business and staying at the Taj, a few of us, and decided to go over to the Trident for dinner this evening.
And just about 20 minutes after we had sat down, we heard some gunshots. At the time, didn't really realize that is that is what it was. And then my colleague saw someone get shot just outside the glass doors of the restaurant.
And, obviously, that prompted us to jump up and run, along with the rest of the restaurant, and left everything behind, including purses and phones. So, we are sort of without anything at the moment. But we ran through the kitchen and surprised the staff. And everyone ran down to a ballroom in the hotel, where we sat in the dark for almost two hours, where we could hear gunfire and also several grenades going off.
There was a lot of panic obviously going on from there. And then we shifted -- they shifted us eventually, 10 at a time, women and children first, outside the hotel through a back fire escape and out into the street, where we thought we were OK, because we were away from the hotel.
And then, again, we heard gunfire and we heard grenades and there was a lot of panic, people running, people getting trampled. And we have been shifted a few times. And there is a lot of waiting. People are hiding in parking structures. I'm in a place now where I feel safe. I have managed to -- we have all stuck together. About 17 of us are hiding here, where we can still hear the gunfire and we have heard a couple grenades go off. And we are watching TV, actually, and we can see what is happening there at the Taj, where our rooms are.
O'BRIEN: Wow. I'm just floored by your story.
First of all, I cannot believe how calm you sound, after what you have just experienced. How are you and the group doing?
TESTOLINI: My colleagues are sleeping. The people -- we are absolutely exhausted. It is after 4:00 in the morning here. And this has been going on now obviously for seven hours or so. We are emotionally drained, but we have managed to find some water and some -- a quiet place here, where we feel much more safe than where we were.
We were obviously out in the open. A couple of the gentlemen here that I am with went to see what is going on. And there is -- the army is on the street here. They have blocked off the street, but they are not allowing any of us to go -- come or go. No cars are allowed in here, so we are here for at least for the night.
But, obviously, we don't have anywhere to return to, because our hotel is on fire at the moment. So, you know, this has been interesting, because we walked into this Trident Hotel and there was absolutely no security. There were no metal detectors, no nothing, whereas, at the Taj, there is at least metal detectors and some security out in front of the hotel.
O'BRIEN: Let's back up a little bit, because your story, there are so many details that I would like to hear a little bit more about.
First of all, you heard the gunshots, didn't know what they were. Then you saw somebody get shot. Were they fatally wounded right in front of you?
TESTOLINI: My colleague did see that. And we heard after that that person did die.
And then I saw one of the workers in the restaurant was covered in blood, and she let me know that one of the busboys had been shot, but taken to the hospital.
TESTOLINI: And I understand I think four people are dead from the Oberoi-Trident hotel there.
O'BRIEN: Right. Did the terrorists come into the restaurant where you were at the Trident? TESTOLINI: They did. We were running the other direction, so I didn't see them myself, but my colleague who was sitting next to me did see them and screamed.
O'BRIEN: They were pursuing you at that point, in essence?
TESTOLINI: They were. They were. And we ran, and we could hear them shooting behind us.
O'BRIEN: It is just a horrifying thought. Now, you mentioned, as you went to this ballroom, that they were helping you. Who is they? Who was helping you out?
TESTOLINI: There is an incredible staff at this hotel. They were so calm and really were trying to keep us all situated and keep us informed of what was going on.
But we were 200 people and maybe 40 staff sitting crouched in the ballroom in the dark, just because the ballroom has -- one side is all windows leading to the street -- facing the street, and we did not want to alert anybody that we were actually hiding there. So, we sat in the dark for a long time., and managed to find somebody who had a BlackBerry, and I e-mailed family, and we all e-mailed family and friends to let them know that we were OK for the moment.
O'BRIEN: You said you are with a group of 17. You sound like you're American. Are you an American businessperson?
TESTOLINI: I'm actually Canadian, but I am -- I have a business in the U.S. and a children's foundation, which I am doing a partnership an Indian children's foundation here, which is why I was here visiting.
TESTOLINI: And I was leaving, actually. My flight is at 1:30 this afternoon, coming up. So, I won't be making that, obviously.
O'BRIEN: No, you won't be making that flight for now. And I am glad you are safe.
Now, we have heard all these reports that Westerners were targeted, Americans and British in particular. Can you confirm that one way or another? Do you have any sense of it? It doesn't sound like you had much to really get a sense of what they were after.
TESTOLINI: Well, my sense is -- obviously the Taj and the Oberoi and the Trident, these are luxury hotels, full of tourists, British, American and otherwise.
And these are the -- these are obviously targets that would gain national -- or international attention, much more so than anywhere else. But they have also hit the Colaba Causeway, which is a tourist market. And I heard that it was also the hospital and the railway -- or the -- sorry, the train station.
O'BRIEN: Without giving away where you are, can you give us a sense of how you feel safe right now, and, you know, if you and your party are going to be OK? Do you have a sense of what is going on outside around you?
TESTOLINI: I know that the Oberoi Hotel has been surrounded by the army. And we sent a couple of people out, and they did confirm that.
And we are far enough away to feel safe, but close enough to still hear what is going on. So, we will just lay low until at least it is daylight and we start just -- the dust starts to settle.
O'BRIEN: And are you still hearing gunshots or any signs of fighting?
TESTOLINI: Actually, yes. Just before our phone call, five minutes before that, we heard gunshots, several rounds of gunshots. And from our perspective, we don't know if that is the police fighting with them or what have you. But we also heard some grenades a couple times in the last maybe 90 minutes to two hours.
O'BRIEN: Manuela Testolini, thank you so much for you time. I'm so glad you're safe and sound. And you have amazing presence of mind to be able to call us and talk about it so calmly.
I suspect you may look back on this and you will start trembling later, maybe, because I think adrenaline probably has a lot to do with it. But good luck. Be safe. And don't move before anybody tells you to move, OK?
TESTOLINI: Absolutely. Thank you very much.
O'BRIEN: All right. Good luck.
Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, joining us now to talk a little bit about not just what is going on in India right now, but a little bit of the context in all of this -- Christiane.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, for hours, this has been going on for hours, and the real question is of course who is it and why? And there are all sorts of idea.
As you have heard from not just Ms. Testolini, but others, obviously Bombay, Mumbai is the center of where Islamist militants, according to India, have repeatedly struck the bustling film industry, the financial center, really in varying degrees over the past 20 years.
They're sort of part of a campaign to try to really strike at the heart of India's economy and obviously its reputation as a bustling gateway and as India is rising as one of the main financial superpowers in the world.
India has often blamed these attacks in the past on Islamic militants who perhaps were based in Pakistan or Bangladesh. Obviously, Pakistan has always denied it. And very, very interestingly, this very week, the new president of Pakistan, Zardari, has made the most conciliatory remarks to India of any Pakistani president, saying that he would favor foregoing any kind of first strike nuclear attack. They're the two nuclear powers there in South Asia.
He has talked about the whole Kashmir situation, which causes a huge amount of problems, militant problems, both in India and in Pakistan. Many of the India is Muslim. There are about 151 million of them. And they have often complained about feeling sort of overwhelmed by the Hindu majority in India. And many also object to Indian rule in Kashmir.
Again, it is not clear why this has happened tonight and why some of the attacks have happened. But there are various flash points that could be a reason. And what about al Qaeda? Al Qaeda has repeatedly threatened to attack precisely India because of the Kashmir situation, although Indian officials and police say there is no such presence.
But let's just go back for instance to 2006, where some 180 people were killed in India. Muslim militants, Islamic militants were blamed for that. There were bombings of trains and railway stations.
And back in 2001, 12 people were killed when there was an assault on the Indian parliament, again blamed on Islamic militant. And that very nearly led to war between India and Pakistan. So, a huge flash point right there, as we still wonder who actually did this and why.
O'BRIEN: Christiane Amanpour, our senior international correspondent, thank you very much.
Some of our own, as it turns out, were inside the Taj Hotel. One of them a CNN International employee, Yasmin Wong, was there. He joins us now live I believe via broadband. And -- excuse me -- she -- my apologies.
Yasmin, if you could give us details what you saw, what you heard as this all transpired. All right, Yasmin, we're going to get -- can you hear me now? Can she hear me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello?
O'BRIEN: Yes, Yasmin, can you hear me?
All right, we will get that straightened out. Obviously, we have got a communication nightmare in this situation, to say the least.
And as Andrew Stevens was saying a little while ago, even on a good day, it can be difficult in Mumbai.
Let's go to Chicago now. Ed Henry is covering the incoming Obama administration, where we are getting some reaction to what is going on there from the president-elect.
Ed, what do you have?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, as if we needed more signs of the seriousness of the situation, we just have gotten some new information from an Obama aide telling me that they are now getting regular updates from the Bush administration, information, updates that then they pass on to the president-elect, who is at his home here in Chicago, so that they can brief him, keep him up on the situation.
We are told now that Barack Obama here in Chicago is getting regular updates on the situation, so he is in the loop. Obviously, it's an awkward situation right now, during the transition period. You have one president, President Bush, at Camp David right now. You have Barack Obama here in Chicago.
An official statement has come out in the last hour or so from his chief national security spokesperson, Brooke Anderson, saying -- quote -- "President-elect Obama strongly condemns today's terrorist attacks in Mumbai. And his thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the people of India. These coordinated attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of terrorism. The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks."
The statement goes on to say, "We stand with the people of India, whose democracy will prove far more resilient than the hateful ideology that led to the attacks" -- again, that a statement from the chief national security spokesperson for Barack Obama.
Quite interesting, as you know, this week for Barack Obama has been dominated by economic security. He's been talking about the financial crisis, three press conferences in three days this week as he rolls out his economic team. These horrific images from India obviously a fresh reminder, as if they needed one, that national security is still front and center as well, and there are a lot of major challenges confronting the incoming president, including terrorism. In fact, next week, he will be officially unveiling his national security team, we hear, in Chicago -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Ed, what do we know about how the team is being briefed, how frequently? What do we know about the avenues of communication to keep them in the loop, so to speak?
HENRY: The staffers I have been talking to say that they are getting as much information as they can as quickly as they can. They are monitoring it just like we are.
One way they do it is by watching us obviously and getting those pictures, seeing that real-time information. But, again, they also say that they are getting information from the Bush administration, the State Department and other avenues.
I'm told there have not been the super senior-level contacts yet. Of course, that could always happen, but more at the mid-level they are going back and forth to get the freshest, most up-to-date intelligence that they can from the Bush administration to the incoming Obama administration, that coming from Washington to here to Chicago.
But, don't forget, they are also, in Washington, are various Obama transition officials. It's not just going on here in Chicago, and, specifically, there are various officials, like Ambassador Wendy Sherman, an Obama transition official, a former Clinton official as well, who is part of that transition team at the State Department to figure out and make sure that this goes smoothly, even before these horrific terror attacks, but just to make sure that there is coordination between both teams.
So, you have Obama officials there on the ground in Washington. They're able to talk to their counterparts in the Bush State Department and then obviously there are also officials here in Chicago, we are told, that are then passing that information on to the president-elect. He is at home here in Chicago getting ready for Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends. But obviously he is now also dealing with this very critical situation, Miles.
O'BRIEN: Adding one more thing to the plate there for the new administration.
All right, Ed Henry, thank you very much.
We are trying to contact our CNN international employee Yasmin Wong, who was inside the Taj Hotel. I think we have reestablished communication. Hopefully, we have it.
Yasmin, can you hear me?
YASMIN WONG, CNN EMPLOYEE: Yes, I can hear you, Miles.
O'BRIEN: All right. Tell me exactly where you were and what you saw and heard.
So, basically, I spent the last I would say like sort of five hours just in a dark room underneath my bed. My bed was basically at the edge of an atrium where a lot of the gunshots were happening. And kind of like I guess an hour ago, the fifth floor, there was a room that caught fire with a grenade.
And at that stage, there was -- all I saw was like a lot of smoke and I saw a guy outside my window above me, on my window, who basically had smashed through the window and was hanging out of the window.
And at that stage, the CNN authorities had told us just to run out of the hotel. So, I ran out of the hotel. I didn't see a single person anywhere. There was smoke everywhere. And the only option I had was just to run down this atrium, where I guess a lot of the gunfire had gone on.
And I passed bodies and people with bullet wounds. And I guess an old man had passed out from the flames. And then I got down to the lobby, and I think obviously it was barricaded. But the lobby entrance was locked. So, I ran out the pool entrance, and escaped to the back of the pool, where, you know, I basically found the street and all the fire trucks and the policemen.
O'BRIEN: All right. Let's back up for just a minute, if we could, Yasmin. What a harrowing tale that is. How did you find out it was happening, first of all?
WONG: To be honest, I sort of fell asleep and I woke up to a lot of what you -- sounds like firecrackers.
And to be honest, the only way I found out was I was watching the local news and. They showed breaking news of the, like -- I guess they said it was gang warfare in a restaurant nearby, and basically then, I don't know, had moved on...
O'BRIEN: So -- I'm sorry. There was a little communication problem. Are you still there, Yasmin?
WONG: I'm here.
O'BRIEN: OK. I apologize. There was a little communication snafu.
So, you made the decision to stay in the room in the dark. Were you given instructions to do that?
WONG: I was given instructions by CNN to stay in the room.
I was also given instructions by the hotel at one point. They had not called my room for at least four hours. But someone called me in the room just to tell me to switch my lights off and to basically stay in the bathtub or stay in the room, because there was an incident in the lobby. So, basically, I was just under my bed for hours.
O'BRIEN: Wow. What was going through your mind at that point?
WONG: Welt, I guess, you know, it is just like something out of a movie. I don't think you ever imagine anything like that to happen.
I guess the main thing is that just I thought it was going to end and it just never ended. And then we just kept hearing that the police were coming in, the military was coming in, but to be honest, we were getting our news sources from our BlackBerrys and from people texting us, because about one hour all this gunfire, I don't know who, but someone had switched off the TV and the cable. We had no television connection at all in any of the rooms. O'BRIEN: So, you are there under your bed in the dark with your BlackBerry as your only means of communication trying to figure what is going on and then all of the sudden, somebody in a ladder comes outside the window? What was that about?
WONG: No, it was not a ladder. It was a guy in the room above me to the left, who basically was screaming out, "Help," because at that (AUDIO GAP) I had found there out was a fire on the fifth floor. And he basically -- he smashed through his window to get out, because I guess he couldn't breathe. And I looked out my window and he was hanging from his window.
O'BRIEN: Whoa. Oh, OK. We are seeing the pictures, I think, right now. So, is that when you decided it is time to get out of here?
WONG: Well, to be honest, I actually didn't know what to do. Some instructions I was given was to stay in the room and then to put a towel against the door with the fire and just to stay under the bed.
But I peeked out the window, and there is a lot of I guess collapsing debris and glass. And it's basically above my room, so there was a final decision was made and an e-mail sent for us to just get out of the hotel.
O'BRIEN: I can imagine you have had an opportunity -- I know you have your BlackBerry. You have probably talked to your family, but here they are. They are probably watching you right now. Do you want to say something to them?
WONG: Well, I don't think this is on international, but I -- yes, I mean, I basically am safe. And, you know, I am with my CNN colleagues. And you know, just pray for everyone else who was in the hotel and everyone else who was a part of this incident in Mumbai. So...
O'BRIEN: One other thought. I know you were in a hurry to get out of there. By the way, what floor was your room on?
WONG: I was on the fourth floor, so it was pretty close to the lobby.
And did you see any of the gunmen, any of the terrorists, and did you have sense of how many hostages there might be, anything along those lines?
WONG: I was only told that there was -- I don't know -- maybe seven to 10 hostages in the other wing.
But I really -- we weren't sure (AUDIO GAP) where they were. But as I was walking down the (AUDIO GAP) stairs (AUDIO GAP) see (AUDIO GAP) and bullet wounds. And I did see some police or military guys kind of hidden behind...
O'BRIEN: All right. I think...
WONG: ... some other doors.
O'BRIEN: All right.
WONG: .... police or terrorists or I don't know, but they had gun wounds.
O'BRIEN: All right. Yasmin Wong, thank you very much. We are glad you are safe. We're glad the rest of the team is safe. And stay safe there in Mumbai.
Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, has been watching things very closely from her post in Washington, as intelligence is coming in to the various authorities. The FBI in particular comes to mind.
What are you hearing right now, Kelli, about what people are thinking about who might be responsible?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, first, we do know that there is this group that allegedly claimed responsibility, calling itself Deccan Mujahedeen.
This is not a group that is known to counterterrorism officials. It is believed that it is a domestic group that is aligned with the Kashmiri separatists there in India. But many of the experts that I spoke to believe that this group had to get some outside help.
Miles, the FBI, as you know is not on the ground in Mumbai. They do have personnel in New Delhi, but that is 700 miles away. And the FBI has not been officially asked to assist at this point. So far, there are no reports of any Americans being killed, although obviously this still early. It's ongoing.
Terrorism analysts here are really dissecting this attack, Miles. They say it is like nothing they have seen before in the region. It is far more coordinated, specifically aimed at Westerners, economic targets.
I'm told that investigators are looking into whether there is any link, as we have also heard before, to a group called Lashkar-e- Tayyaba. That is a Pakistani group. It has links to al Qaeda. Now, this is nothing firm, Miles. This is all being investigated.
But some experts say that they would not be surprised at all if there was some al Qaeda influence at work here. Al Qaeda and some other Muslim groups in the region pretty much share the same goal, to have Kashmir under Muslim control.
What is more, al Qaeda would very much like to stir up passions in the region to divert attention from Pakistan, where we have heard from intelligence officials al Qaeda and the Taliban are in those tribal areas, so anything that diverts Pakistan's attention away from its domestic issues and toward India would help al Qaeda. O'BRIEN: Kelli Arena covering the Justice Department for us, joining us from Washington, thank very much.
Zain Verjee has further details for me, lots of developments on this story -- Zain.
VERJEE: Miles, from CNN's sister network, IBN, they are saying now that two terrorists have just been shot dead at the Taj Hotel. The standoff between there commando and Indian security forces and terrorists continues. The Taj Hotel, we understand, is still burning.
There are terrorists still in both the Oberoi Hotel and Cama Hospital. Cama Hospital is a place for women and children. And the hostage situation there is still under way. Terrorists, too, are holed up inside the Oberoi Hotel. We are hearing, overall, 11 policemen are dead
O'BRIEN: Kelli Arena covering the Justice Department for us, joining us from Washington. Thank you very much.
Zain Verjee has further details for me. Lots of developments on this story -- Zain.
VERJEE: Miles, from CNN's sister network, IBN. They're saying now that two terrorists have just been shot dead at the Taj Hotel -- the standoff there between commandos and Indian security forces and terrorists continues. The Taj Hotel, we understand, it's still burning. There are terrorists still in both the Oberoi Hotel and Cama Hospital. Cama Hospital is a place for women and children. And the hostage situation there is still underway.
Terrorists, too, are holed up inside the Oberoi Hotel. We're hearing, overall, 11 policemen are dead. And reports, too, that terrorists might have used a sea route to come into Mumbai, because there were boats with explosives that were just found near the gateway of India.
Miles, it's just -- one interesting thing to point out, too, is that, you know, India's strategic partnership with the United States has been a reason that's really angered a lot of Muslim -- Muslim citizens that live in India, because they feel that the U.S. war on terror is a war on Islam. And they also feel really resentful toward the
Indian police forces and anti-terror squads because they've been going into the various Muslim neighborhoods and rounding up young men and things like that. And it has angered them. And what many analysts are saying is that they feel marginalize, young Muslim men criminalized and this is a way of lashing back.
O'BRIEN: Boy, the dimensions of this attack, when you tell me they even had, perhaps, a sea component. We know for a fact that there were Kalashnikov rifles -- automatic weapons. We know about grenades. There are reports that there may have been vehicle-borne bombs. And we have seen direct evidence that they had a vehicle that was painted to be a police vehicle or a stolen police vehicle.
This was coordinated on multiple fronts -- almost militaristic strategy and tactics in this case.
O'BRIEN: Let's go to Washington.
Kathleen Koch has been tracking things from the White House -- Kathleen, what can you tell us about what the Bush administration is hearing about this?
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, I just got some new information from the deputy press secretary, Gordon Johndroe. And he says that the White House and the National Security Council convened a meeting of officials from the State Department, from Counter-Terrorism and U.S. intelligence agencies this afternoon to address these events in Mumbai.
Johndroe goes on the say that they have reached out to our embassy in Delhi and to our consulate in Mumbai, as well as talking to Indian government officials. Now, he says right now the administration is gathering information, seeing what steps can be taken.
Earlier this afternoon, I spoke also with Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto. And he said that President Bush, when he arrived at the presidential retreat at Camp David this afternoon, was informed of these deadly series of attacks. And he said the president is being kept updated.
The White House also released a statement condemning the attacks. This was from Fratto, saying: "We condemn these attacks and the loss of innocent life. We continue to seek more information."
We have certainly pressed on all White House officials about what about these reports that Americans were being targeted, that British citizens were being targeted, that they may actually be being held hostage right now. And at this point, the White House cannot confirm any of those reports. But certainly they are watching this -- these developing attacks very, very carefully, Miles.
This is -- India is a major U.S. trading partner, a major military ally and certainly the U.S. quite concerned about violent instability in such an important country.
O'BRIEN: Kathleen Koch at the White House. Thank you very much.
We continue to get witness accounts -- eyewitness accounts as this tragedy unfolds in Mumbai. We have some material from our sister network, IBN, in India -- a witness who was inside the Taj Hotel. Let's listen.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We didn't see anything. But we were basically ahead of it. So we ran in front of it. So basically there were about 25 people in my room. And everybody was just lying still, lying on the tables, lying on the furniture and just, you know, being very quiet and just hoping it would pass.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How were you rescued from the police?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the -- from the fire brigade. And what happened was that they just smashed our windows. And we all had to come out to the ladder. And that -- it just happened about half an hour ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were you doing inside?
What exactly was (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, they didn't tell us anything, because nobody knew anything. I mean we only had the (INAUDIBLE) hotel staff, who, I must say, were absolutely brilliant. And -- but they didn't have any more information. So, you know, they just kept saying to us all, be quiet, stay calm, you know, it will all be OK.
But nobody actually had information. But we could just hear it all. We could hear it when -- we knew when the army were in, because we could hear the army running through the -- through the hotel. And we -- we just heard all the gunfire and we heard all the blasts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're from London. When did your company (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here with two friends of mine, actually. And they're also from London, actually. And so -- but I haven't found them yet, actually, because they're probably just around here somewhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Six hours, painful loss.
What do you have to say about that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most definitely the worst experience of my entire life. And, you know, it was just so horrendous. It was absolutely horrendous. I've never experienced anything like it and I hope I never do again, actually. And I just think it's a credit to the hotel and to the (INAUDIBLE) services that they got us out in the time and in the way that they did. It was -- you know, in our group, at least, there's no casualties, anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: All right. It would help me -- I'm sure it would help you, too -- if we knew a little bit more about the lay of the land.
CNN's Abbi Tatton has been focusing on the reported locations of these attacks -- we know of nine so far -- and has tried to pinpoint as much of this as possible using the Google Map technology to walk us through it -- Abbi, help us understand the lay of the land there.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Right, Miles.
Nine sites attacked -- hotels, a hospital, a restaurant. This is how it unfolded around the city. In the southern part of Mumbai over the last few hours, starting with the Taj Mahal Hotel, a luxury hotel. Gunmen taking over that location earlier on. Five hours later -- we saw it right here on CNN -- smoke billowing from the roof at that building. Since then, reports of 50 hostages released.
Nearby, the Hotel Oberoi -- this is just in the same neighborhood, not far away, another luxury hotel there. Also, gunmen taking over that area. We heard that the army is in that location. Reports that the lights are off. No word from inside at this time.
Right now, those are fluid, ongoing situations -- gunmen still inside, from what we're hearing. But locations elsewhere in the city are being targeted -- have been targeted in the last few hours.
We're going to Cafe Leopold right now. This is a place that's legendary with backpackers, Western tourists -- a popular hangout. Reports there that shots were fired. Little more information than that.
Also, a railway station -- the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station. All we know, one police official telling us there an attack took place. We don't know any more information than that at this point. And then the hospital -- the Cama Hospital. This is a hospital for women and children, has been targeted. Reports that shots were fired there. We've had reports that patients were taken hostage. That's all we know about that area there at the truth is time.
We've also heard, Miles, from people that I've talked to that have uploaded their photos onto the Internet of grenade attacks taking place elsewhere in the city. We're, obviously, tracking that down and we'll bring you more -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Abbi Tatton, thank you very much.
That helped me quite a bit understand the dimensions of all of this. But it's -- it's difficult to comprehend the horror of the whole thing.
Let's talk a little bit more, also about these targets -- specifically, these buildings, these hotels. Isha Sesay, who is with CNN International, is familiar with Mumbai and has stayed in some of these hotels -- Isha, what can you tell us?
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Hi there, Miles. We want to take you through where some of these attacks took place.
Now, the Taj Mahal Hotel that we've been speaking about a great deal over the last couple of hours was among one of at least nine sites attacked late on Wednesday. Now, the Taj Mahal, just to give you some oversight, it's a 22-story, luxury, five star hotel right there by the Arabian Sea. This is a 105-year-old, 600 room waterfront hotel. And it's been described as one of Mumbai's architectural marvels. It's been host to royalty, both domestic and foreign and was to have been the base for the England cricket team next month, after a previous stay two weeks ago.
Now, it's also just about 40 minutes away from the airport and it'/s near the bustling city center. Now, we've been seeing -- as you can see there -- plumes of smoke were seen billowing out of the top floor of the hotel. And there were reports of that floor catching fire after an explosion. Some people saying it was a bomb that went off. At least 90 percent of the building was plunged into darkness, as the authorities cut off power in a precautionary measure.
Now, as we understand it, two terrorists lost their lives there at the Taj Mahal Hotel and the situation is still evolving. Let's tell you a little bit now about the Oberoi. Now, that is in Southern Mumbai. It's centrally located in the main financial district. The legislative assembly and most international and national banks are headquartered all within a radius of one kilometer.
Police say that these attacks that we've been talking about for the last couple of hours on CNN and CNN International began shortly after 10:30 p.m. They started at a railway terminus. Chhatrapati Shivaji is what it's actually called -- and CST, to be short. And it's formally known as the Victoria Terminus. And there, gunmen claimed about 10 lives.
Now, as we said, a number of sites targeted. Also reports of shooting at Cafe Leopold, a very popular hot spot for tourists in the city. And Zain and Abbi were talking about, you know, the situation at the Cama Hospital. This is a hospital for women and children. As we understand it, a hostage situation is still underway there.
So, Miles, just to give you some insight into these various locations, in particular, the hotels, just how prestigious they are and just, you know, what, you know, a hot spot they were for tourists and many famous people who have visited and stayed there over many years -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Isha Sesay in Atlanta. Thank you very much.
Let's go to Zain Verjee, who's been watching international reaction and, as well as the, of course, the State Department, which is her beat. Tell us what you know -- Zain.
VERJEE: Well, I'll get to the international reaction in just a sec, because we're getting more information from our sister network, IBN.
They're saying now that the terrorists went in with masks on and they started searching basically indiscriminately at one restaurant, Cafe Leopold, popular with foreign tourists and backpackers.
There are also reports that many foreigners have been killed. We're accessing more information from the State Department to see if any U.S. citizens have been killed or injured. They're combing the hospitals to try to figure out whether that is the case and whether or not any American tourists or businesspeople may also have been killed or wounded.
Police are also not confirming whether or not tourists have been targeted, but several witnesses -- and as we've been reporting, as you know, Miles, they say that the terrorists came in and asked specifically for passports by U.S. -- belonging to U.S. or British citizens.
O'BRIEN: And what -- a word on international reaction.
O'BRIEN: What are you hearing on that, too?
VERJEE: Right. Well, Ban Ki-moon is saying, you know, the U.N. secretary general condemnations the rash of shootings and blasts in Mumbai today that killed and wounded a number of people. He says it's totally unacceptable. The British prime minister, Gordon Brown, is calling it outrageous and that it will be met with a vigorous response and urgent has been taken to protect British citizens. And the British foreign secretary has also said that the U.S. and India will continue their joint actions to counter terrorism. The U.S. has also condemned what's happened and is monitoring the situation.
O'BRIEN: Zain Verjee, thank you very much.
We're going to take a break.
Our coverage of the attacks on Mumbai will continue after a short break. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back. I'm Miles O'Brien.
This is our continuing coverage of the attacks on Mumbai.
Scores of people dead, hundreds of people injured in a coordinated terrorist attack on at least nine targets in the financial center of India. Ongoing hostage situations, a chaotic scene and a very dangerous scene still exists in Mumbai. And we're not sure, at this point, how much the authorities have under control.
Let's go right now to Abbi Tatton, who has been watching this story unfold on the Internet -- lots of pictures being shared out there, Abbi. What are you seeing?
TATTON: Miles, we've seen a lot on Ara (ph) from around the hotels. But what I'm seeing online is other areas of the city in the south of Mumbai. This is the area of Calabar -- the southern tip. The apartment that this man lives in, Vino Kamor Ranganathan (ph), he's within sight of the hotel there, the Taj. But when he walked out of his building, this is what he saw.
He talked me through the last few hours -- what it was like to be a resident there. It started off in his apartment. He heard two loud blasts. He looked to the television. He thought that that was coming from the railway station. But when he headed out, this was the area around his building. The police saying that this petrol station had been targeted by a grenade attack. So at this point, he knows of attack at the train station, also, an by -- on -- a grenade attack on the petrol station, as well.
And at that point, where he was crowded around this area with other people in the street, gunfire happened just in the vicinity around him. He said no one was hurt. He didn't see anyone get injured, saw a couple of people with minor injuries. But he said people were just taking to the streets, no idea what was happening, no idea of what was coming next. He's now back in his apartment loading these pictures to the Internet -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Abbi Tatton watching it from her standpoint, through the power of the Internet. Thank you very much. It gives us another added dimension and a little more insight on things.
We've been continuing to get additional witness testimony, if you will, to what happened and what is happening in Mumbai. Let's listen to this one, which just came in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard -- we heard a bomb blast. We heard gunshot wounds. We heard fighting. And we just (INAUDIBLE).
(SPEAKING ANOTHER LANGUAGE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a painful experience.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just wondering. I was just thinking whether I will be able to see my daughter or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: All right.
Joining us on the phone right now is Andrew Stevens, our CNN correspondent who has been on the ground there in Mumbai since the beginning for us -- Andrew, what are you hearing and seeing now?
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, we are not hearing a lot of new information at the moment. As it stands, we still understand that there is a hostage situation at two hotels -- the two five star hotels, the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi Hotel, which are quite close to each other.
What I can tell you is that navy commandos have gotten into the Taj hotel and managed to get quite a few guests out of the hotel. Others took their own initiative and also fled the hotel in the last hour or so.
We don't know at this stage whether there are still guests in there. We do know there are hostages there. It is estimated -- the Associated Press quoting local people and also the local media here, Miles, is now estimating between seven and 15 foreign hostages in the Taj, held by what is understood to be two gunmen. But, again, that information cannot be confirmed.
What we have heard over the past three hours or so is eyewitnesses saying that when the gunmen came in, they rounded up guests to where they could find them and demanded to see passports. They were looking for British and U.S. passport holders. This was a particular target. And they were taken away. Again, we just don't know the numbers yet.
At the Oberoi, Miles, it's much less clear. We understand there are still hostages there. There is engagement by the military. At this stage, I can't tell you more than that at the Oberoi.
O'BRIEN: All right. Andrew, here's a question for you. We're going on six hours since this all began -- check me if I'm wrong on that. Going on six hours and, admittedly, I know that the head of anti-terrorism has been killed in this attack.
But have we heard any official statements from authorities, any sort of indication as to where things stand from their perspective?
STEVENS: Well, we heard, about 45 minutes ago, Miles -- and you're right, it's about six hours since this -- this incident first began. About 45 minutes ago, the chief minister of the state in which Mumbai is, said that the situation at both the Taj and the Oberoi were not -- was not under control. So that's as clear an indication as we can have that it's an ongoing hostage situation. The -- I get the impression, though, that this has now been contained to these two incidents at these hotels. Because at one stage, we were getting report after report of another target being hit, another target being hit. At one stage, they were talking about nine targets being hit. And it's been scaled back now to seven.
But we were -- just didn't know where this was going to end. We now have seen about two, maybe three hours. We haven't heard reports of new attacks in new places. The last one we heard was the Ramada Hotel, which is actually not where the rest of the targets were, but in the north of the city. That was probably about three-and-a-half hours ago or so.
So it looks like it now has been -- the situation now has boiled down to these two hotels.
O'BRIEN: All right. So, Anderson, help me out here. As we look -- by the way, we're looking at videotape which would lead us to believe that there was a vehicle-borne bomb here, as well. We talked about that a little bit.
So, just to be as clear as we can about this, seven targets. But at this point, only two would be considered active, in the sense that there are terrorists holed up in two locations only? Is that our best understanding at this point?
STEVENS: Correct, Miles. That's the best understanding, that the two five star hotels -- and these hotels are very much favored by foreign travelers, by foreign businessmen. The Oberoi Hotel and The Taj Mahal are the two active sites at the moment. Both, we understand, have military engagement within the hotels. But at this stage, we just don't know what's actually going on.
O'BRIEN: OK. Thank you very much, Andrew Stevens.
Let's listen in to our sister network in India, IBN, for just a moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we really don't know where -- which floor they are at, where have they reached. And of course, there was a -- there was a pattern in the way they were moving up. Every floor had a light being switch on and switched off. So all that is going inside (AUDIO GAP) blasts inside. (AUDIO GAP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Rohit (ph), I think we are having a bit of problem with your audio, so while you -- while you just patch that up, just quick details, if you can share with us, on roughly how many floors does this particular hotel have, any other exit points?
And you're talking about that noise of a blast coming out, roughly an indication as to which (AUDIO GAP) could it have come from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of the blasts and the (AUDIO GAP) the hotel (AUDIO GAP). UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rohit (ph), I'll have to interrupt you here once again.
O'BRIEN: All right. Let's -- I'm going to try to fill in a few gaps for you here, because I know it's kind of hard to figure this out with the audio problems.
But our best understanding, we're at the Oberoi Hotel in this feed, we think -- yes, I believe that is the Oberoi Hotel. And our understanding is that the military -- the authorities are inside that building now. And we just talked to Andrew Stevens about how it's getting -- we're finally getting some definitive nature as to the scope of where things stand right now. And basically, we're looking at two locations -- the two five star hotels there, the Taj and the Oberoi, are the places that are active at this point -- places where terrorists are still inside, presumably hostages and where the authorities are trying to seize control.
The other five, maybe seven locations, depending on how you count -- we believe a total of seven right now, so that would be five other locations -- are, in one way or another, secure and at least not actively involving the authorities or the terrorists. So that's where it stands right now.
We're going to watch very closely these feeds and let you know if we see any sort of developments at the Oberoi involving the military, which would lead us to believe they're securing the Oberoi and affecting any kind of rescue of the hostages.
Meantime, we've been talking throughout the evening with James Fontanella, who is a correspondent with "The Financial Times." When last we checked in with him, he was at the hospital. James, are you still there?
JAMES FONTANELLA-KHAN, "FINANCIAL TIMES," MUMBAI, INDIA: Yes, I'm still there. I've spoken to quite a few people, including the chief doctor here, Dr. Taibba (ph). And basically he's confirming that 81 people are dead. Seven are foreigners and 161 are injured. There's actually 63 people dead here at St. George. I've seen a lot of the corpses here. It's absolutely devastating. It is -- it's devastating. There's no other words for that.
O'BRIEN: James, let me ask you this. When he says 81 are dead...
O'BRIEN: ...presumably, those are people who have made it, one way or another, to hospital or because...
FONTANELLA-KHAN: That's correct. The numbers could go up, he said. But the 81 he gave me are confirmed.
O'BRIEN: OK. Because we've -- we had...
FONTANELLA-KHAN: And he gave me a breakdown of where they were and which hospitals and so forth. O'BRIEN: Yes, we -- because...
FONTANELLA-KHAN: And -- yes?
O'BRIEN: Well, we just -- we've heard witness accounts -- just a little while ago, we were talking with one of our fellow CNN employees. And she was talking about, as she ran out of the Taj Hotel, seeing numerous bodies in the hallways there. So, presumably, this number will go up and this number of 81 would not include that.
FONTANELLA-KHAN: Absolutely not. I mean, the number I gave you is the one that was confirmed to me by the chief doctor at the St. Georges Hospital, who was actually on the phone with the home minister so -- home affairs minister.
So that's what I have. And then I spoke with a few of the other guys. A lot of volunteers came out to help the operation here in the hospital. And something they told me which was -- I think was more shocking is that a lot of people got killed in the train station. When they heard a few shots, they started basically running all out. And there was a massive stampede. So a lot of people died because they didn't manage to get out. They fell on the floor -- especially children and women. So -- so that thing makes it even worse.
O'BRIEN: So, I'm sorry. Just to be clear, there was actually a panic-driven stampede at the rail station which caused some of the fatalities?
FONTANELLA-KHAN: Correct. I'm sorry the line is very bad.
O'BRIEN: OK. Well, I can hear you just fine. I'll try to speak slowly.
What else can you tell us about the scene there at the hospital? I imagine friends and relatives worried about the loved ones are there?
FONTANELLA-KHAN: People were screaming and crying and it's absolutely dire, the sense of desperation. And as I arrived, after I stopped -- I finished talking to you, I mean, there was a man screaming like, "what have I done to deserve this? What have I done to deserve this?"
(INAUDIBLE) he just lost his wife. And he was devastated. And there were many others there crying and completely -- they have no words to describe the pain. And it's just -- it's terrible.
O'BRIEN: I should say. All right. Thank you very much.
FONTANELLA-KHAN: So I think there's very little I cannot -- I mean I spoke, also, to a few other people. And they said -- what they told me is that what is really bothering them about this attack is it was completely unconventional -- people like firing AK-47s and throwing grenades. I mean, this was completely different from any other attack they have ever -- ever seen before. O'BRIEN: All right. James Fontanella with "Financial Times". Thank you. I believe we're -- are you -- you're nowhere near the Oberoi, right? Can you see the Oberoi Hotel from where you are?
FONTANELLA-KHAN: No. I was at the Oberoi.
FONTANELLA-KHAN: And what I told you, I'm out -- I have spoken to other people there. And they told me that there are still terrorists inside. So I -- I'm not there anymore. So I'm probably going to go back.
O'BRIEN: OK. Well, because we're seeing some visuals which seem to indicate -- and check me in the control room on this -- that there are people leaving the Oberoi, is that right? -- OK.
Two people have been rescued at the Oberoi. So there's obviously some sort of military operation underway there as we speak. And that is good news, in the sense that it appears the military is finally gaining some degree of the upper hand here in what is obviously a very chaotic and difficult situation, which caught this city, obviously, flat-footed.
James, just a -- how long have you spent in Mumbai covering news there? Is this a city that is very familiar to you?
FONTANELLA-KHAN: Yes. Well, I've been here now six months. And there's been a series of attacks. This is just the last one in a series, really. And it is actually the worst in the last six months. I mean, the city was expecting an attack, but nobody ever -- ever thought it was going to be as tragic as it has turned out to be.
O'BRIEN: Yes. I suspect this day -- I guess it's already November 27th there -- November 26th it began. This may become the 9/11 for India, I guess.
FONTANELLA-KHAN: Well, I mean, let's not forget that in 2006, there was a massive -- another very big attack in Bombay. There have been others. There was another very big attack in Jaipur a few months back.
So, I mean, India has a terrorism problem. This is now actually a fact. I mean, it's -- we're always talking about the economic boom and the great, you know, the great India story. But there is an underbelly to this and it's called terrorism. There's no two ways about that.
O'BRIEN: There was no denying it today.
James Fontanella with the "Financial Times," who has spent six months in Mumbai and who is offering his insights on a city now that is just absolutely at its knees. As we watched it progress, though, we do know this. James just confirming to us. We know of 81 fatalities. Several hundred people were injured. We know the number of fatalities -- that number will, in fact, increase. We spoke to witnesses who have seen bodies inside the Hotel Taj. One of our CNN employees, as she fled that hotel, said she saw numerous bodies.
And at this juncture, it is will a very fluid and dynamic situation with what appears to be a military operation going on in one hotel and hostages, we believe, in both -- Western hi, guys, we believe, very possibly Americans, and, as well as other Western hostages.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" to continue this coverage.
Kitty Pilgrim in for Lou -- Kitty, take it away.