Finally, light at end of Mumbais dark tunnel

Written by feBureau | Mumbai, New Delhi | Updated: Nov 29 2008, 08:23am hrs
Darkness fell over a third night of staccato gunfire in Mumbai on Friday, although it appeared the citys grim ordeal was finally coming to an end. However, the day was not without action and confusion, fear and tragedy. The Trident-Oberoi hotel was cleared of terrorists and Operation Black Tornado, which was mounted on Nariman House, was also complete. A lone terrorist was still holding out at the Taj Mahal hotel.

Agency reports from Islamabad said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, and asked for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief to be sent to India. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a request to our Prime Minister that he should send the ISI to India to help in ongoing investigations and further intelligence sharing, said Pakistan government spokesperson Zahid Bashir. The reports said ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha was set to leave shortly.

Earlier in the day, commandos rappelled down ropes from Indian Air Force helicopters onto the roof of Nariman House in Colaba. The IAF had, on Thursday, deployed two Mi-8 helicopters at INS Kunjali from Jamnagar and two Mi-17s were sent for additional assistance on Friday.

Since the terrorists commanded elevated positions at Nariman House, they had successfully blocked the entry of security forces from the ground level and, hence, National Security Guards (NSG) were left with no option but to take the aerial route. After sustained gunfire and controlled bombing, the black cats secured the building.

At the Trident-Oberoi, some 100 hostagesmostly foreign nationalswere rescued by the NSG after a protracted two-day gun battle. Wounded and exhausted hostages trudged out of the hotel to meet waiting friends and relatives near the Air India building. According to reports, the NSG had killed two terrorists on Friday and the bodies of six others were recovered from the premises.

Hosts of people reportedly missing relatives had started posting messages on various television channels. At the time of going to press, official sources said 116 bodies lay in the city morgue. However, other sources claim that toll could be significantly higher as up to 100 bodies were yet to be retrieved from Trident-Oberoi. Television reports said that among the bodies recovered from the hotel was that of Yes Bank chairman Ashok Kapur, brother-in-law of the banks MD & CEO, Rana Kapoor.

The day was highlighted by unconfirmed reports that shots had been fired at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and other areas of south Mumbai, resulting in panic among office-goers and traders. Many offices and shops that had reopened on Friday quickly downed their shutters. However, commissioner of police Hassan Gaffor said there was no substance to these reports and appealed for calm.

Attendance at various establishments as well as traffic was thin through most of the dayunsual in a city that is always buzzing with activity. Parts of Nariman Point and Colaba remained cordoned off by security personnel.