- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2008

ATLANTA

Angela Mulchandami was relieved to see her mother made it aboard a flight from Bombay to Atlanta on Thursday morning.

A day earlier, India’s largest city was the scene of a highly coordinated terrorist attack that had killed about 120 people at numerous high-profile sites, including two luxury hotels.

“It’s hard not knowing how all of your loved ones are, especially when you are seeing it on TV,” said the 25-year-old Ms. Mulchandami as she waited at the airport. “I didn’t know if she had made the flight.”

Indian-Americans and others across America with connections to the city under siege were frantically trying to get in touch with loved ones and colleagues Thursday. As they watched the scenes from Bombay play out, Americans sent worried phone calls and e-mails to scores of friends and family.

At least two American women were among the injured. Andi Varagona of Nashville, Tenn., called her mother, Celeste Varagona, from a hospital Thursday and said she had been shot in the arm and leg while eating dinner at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel.

Another Tennessee woman traveling with her was also injured, but her name was not immediately available, Ms. Varagona told the Associated Press. State Department spokesman Robert McInturff said Thursday at least three Americans were injured in the attacks, but said he could not identify them.

On Thursday, the State Department noted the reports that Americans were targeted in the attacks and urged U.S. citizens not to travel to Bombay for at least 48 hours and issued a travel alert for all of India through Dec. 31. The State Department set up a call center for Americans concerned about family members who may be in Bombay. The number is 888/407-4747.

President Bush expressed condolences Thursday to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a phone call from Camp David. Press secretary Dana Perino said Mr. Bush wanted to express “solidarity with the people of India” after Wednesday’s attacks. President-elect Barack Obama spoke by telephone Thursday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and also received intelligence briefings.

The motive for the violence was not clear, but Bombay has frequently been targeted in terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists, including a series of bombings in July 2007 that killed 187 people.

Karan Maheshwari, 25, also arrived in Atlanta from Bombay on Thursday morning. His mother called him before he took off to say that his high school biology teacher had been fatally shot and two family friends were being held captive at the Taj hotel.

“They are just killing innocent people,” said Mr. Maheshwari, who works for the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm across the street from the Oberoi Hotel, which was also attacked.

Sumita Batra, 39, who owns a chain of Indian beauty salons in Southern California, said she has two close friends who are in Bombay for the holiday season. After several hours of trying Thursday, she finally reached one who was traveling with her 3-year-old son.

“It’s so weird because they keep showing the same thing over and over again. I don’t know what I’m looking for. I’m hoping that I can hear that it’s over,” said Ms. Batra, who lives in Artesia, a southern Los Angeles County city that’s home to the region’s Little India.

Viren K. Bhandari said he checked out of the Oberoi hotel about three hours before the attacks began. He said he would have normally not left the hotel so early, but had a business meeting before he had to be at the airport.

“It could have been just outside when it all started,” the Atlanta resident said as he waited for his baggage at the city’s airport.

Indian-American and Hindu communities across the U.S. were trying to understand the rash violence in India’s financial capital.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg joined worshippers at the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Queens for a service to honor the dead and injured.

The Durga Temple, a large Hindu temple in Northern Virginia, was open for prayers on Thanksgiving Day, though no special services were planned until members return from holiday travel.

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