- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008


NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday blamed militant groups in neighboring countries [-] almost certainly Pakistan [-] for plotting a series of terrorist attacks in the country’s financial capital of Bombay, as commandos fought to regain control of the city and the death toll exceeded 125.

India’s armed services, working in tandem with police, elite commandos and counterterrorism squads, on Friday scoured two luxury hotels and a Jewish center in Bombay for terrorists who were thought to be holding hostages.

Authorities said the death toll from the attacks, which started Wednesday night stood at 125, including at least six foreigners, by Friday morning.

Indian officials said they had killed three gunmen at the Taj Mahal Hotel and were sweeping both it and the Oberoi-Trident hotel early Friday in search of hostages and trapped people. Dozens of hostages have been released from the luxury hotels.

The State Department warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Bombay and other parts of India at this time.

In his televised address to the nation, Mr. Singh said it was “evident that the group which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country.”#

“We will take up strongly with our neighbors that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them,” he said.

Although Mr. Singh did not mention Pakistan by name, both politicians and analysts said that when government officials use the word “neighbors,” it is typically an allusion to Pakistan.

“Since the prime minister has publicly accused Pakistan, I think there is reason to believe that there must be a kernel of truth to it,” said Sumit Ganguly, a political science professor at Indiana University at Bloomington.

An Italian, a German, a Japanese and a Briton were among those confirmed dead. Foreigners among the 327 wounded included seven Britons, three Americans and two Australians. According to media reports and survivors, the terrorists specifically asked for guests with American and British passports.

A Virginia spiritual group said Thursday night that two of its American members were missing and four others were wounded.

Alan Scherr, 58, and his daughter, Naomi Scherr, 13, were not located, said Bobbie Garvey, a spokeswoman for the Faber-based Synchronicity Foundation. The Scherrs both live and work for the Foundation south of Charlottesville.

Four other members of the group’s 25-person party [-] two Americans and two Canadians who were staying at the Oberoi hotel [-] were wounded by gunfire, and were thought to be in stable condition, Synchronicity said in a statement.

On Thursday, firefighters battled flames spewing from the roof of the Taj Mahal Palace, which opened its doors in 1903. Gunfire was heard again just before midnight Friday at the Taj as the operation appeared to be winding down. At least one terrorist was captured alive.

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