Return to Transcripts main page


CNN International Simulcast: World Reaction to the Mumbai Attacks

Aired November 27, 2008 - 20:00   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everyone.
The story is still unfolding and the witnesses are telling their stories as Mumbai reels from a series of terrorist attacks. Security is high and some attackers are still under siege.

Welcome to viewers in the United States and around the world. Dawn is breaking in Mumbai. We'll take you there live in our special coverage of the terrorist attacks in India's financial capital.

Well, some of the panic has subsided, but there are still standoffs under way at several sites in shell-shocked Mumbai. Let's get the latest for you.

In a nationally televised address the Indian Prime Minister implied the killers were foreigners but fell short of blaming Pakistan or any other countries.

Now, Indian media are reporting that the suspected Islamic militants planned the attacks months in advance. That they arrived by boat to Mumbai and had even set up control rooms inside the targeted luxury hotels. Now police are scouring the wreckage of the Taj and Oberoi Hotels searching for the platters of Wednesday night's attacks.

India's National Security Guards are reportedly trying to engage gunmen still holed up in those hotels. One gunman was reportedly killed at the Oberoi. Some guests and hostages are also inside; how many is unclear.

Reports say there are two hostages trapped in the Chabad house Jewish center. Several explosions have rung out there and Indian authorities say two or three gunmen are believed to be inside. Since the attacks began, at least 125 people have been killed, and more than 300 wounded.

Now, in a sign of how the violence is affecting Indian culture and compare this, for instance, to the World Series in America, the country's cricket board has postponed the final two matches in England's one-day series in India.

Now we at CNN have correspondents spread out across Mumbai and the region, bringing you the latest updates to this developing story.

Andrew Stevens was right in the heart of the targeted area when the dead lay attacks began. Mallika Kapur is in Mumbai she offer us her perspectives on the chaos gripping her city and Sara Sidner brings us the latest developments from outside the Taj Mahal Palace hotel.

Let's begin with Andrew Stevens; he is near Mumbai's Chabad house that's where gunmen and hostages are thought to be inside. He joins us now by phone, Andrew, what's the latest there at that Jewish center?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Still increasing activity here, Hala. There has in the last hour or so been a steady stream of ambulances come in, of fire engines and jeep loads of police. The military has also been turning up in bigger numbers. As yet though we've seen no indication that they are moving in to the actual Chabad house at this stage.

We can't actually see it from where we are, we're about 50 meters way from the place; the whole area around that has been cordoned off. It is in the middle of the labyrinth, a maze of little alley ways. It does stands out as it's five stories tall and it's sort of a sandy color, but the police have made a very thorough job of making sure that the media can't get anywhere near it.

In the last four hours or so there's been a series of three what sounds like hand grenade explosions and this fits in with the stories I've been hearing saying that any of the security forces who have tried to approach the house have been forced back by gunmen who have thrown hand grenades at them.

At this stage we understand there are four people, perhaps five people inside that building and unknown number of gunmen. The elite Black Commandos Unit, as they are known they are part of the National Security Guard there in force. They set up a command center quite close to the house but as yet have not moved on it.

We did hear earlier this morning that one of the younger family members of the rabbi who lives in the Jewish center was spirited away by two of the helpers there, two of the staff who actually work in there and the young boy is ok.

We don't know, and we haven't had any word on the condition of the others at this stage, Hala.

GORANI: And there were reports that an Israeli rescue team was traveling to Mumbai to assess the Indian security personnel there. Has that been confirmed?

STEVENS: That's right, yes, yes, they are in the air as we speak actually. That they have dispatched to the scene to, as they say, help the authorities in Mumbai deal with any situations. They're prepared; they're standing by basically to offer any help they can.

There's no suggestion this would be a military force. Certainly I was speaking to, there is a member of the Israeli embassy who is down at the Chabad house where we are and he was saying his understanding was he was merely there to offer support to the government authority, whatever support they ask for.

So that obviously is being taken very seriously at a very high level in Israel. As one person said to me, one Israeli said to me, the Israelis, Jewish people tend to be targets all over the world these days. This is not something specific to Mumbai. This is just more of a general terror mood, if you like.

GORANI: All right, Andrew Stevens there reporting from that Jewish center in Mumbai, one of ten sites targeted. Of course, there were also those two luxury hotels and just hours ago sporadic blasts and gunfire were rattling from the Taj and Oberoi hotels in Mumbai.

Indian commandos, black-clad commandos have been in and out of both hotels trying to subdue the gunmen and free the hostages. It's not clear if the blasts were set off by the hostage takers or by soldiers going door to door on each floor of the hotels, they may have been using stun grenades for instance; that's one theory.

It's not clear how many hostages there still are but France says as many as 20 of its citizens are inside one of the hotels, an Air France flight crew.

Now, in a nationally televised addressed, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated that he believed the attackers were from outside India but he didn't name a specific country. He said the attacks were well-planned and very orchestrated and that those behind them would be brought to justice. Listen.


MANMOHAN SINGH, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA: We will go after these individuals and organizations and make sure that every perpetrator, organizer and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price for these cowardly and horrific acts against our people.


GORANI: Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister. Earlier we got some perspective on the Prime Minister's address to the nation from our Christiane Amanpour. She talked with Carol Costello.


CHISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He talked about some of them coming in from a boat. He talked about how they had targeted the real financial hub of India, the gateway to the nation, which Mumbai is, and its cultural hub as well, including its international faith. But he's also put out the speculation that could be included some motivation from abroad but we don't know, usually that is code for Pakistani activity but we don't know.

And the thing is, this does come at a time when the President of Pakistan, the new President, Zardari has made the single most warm outreach to India in decades talking about wanting to bring full peace between the two countries, wanting to renounce potentially the first nuclear strike that no other Indian leader has said before. And officials from both countries just yesterday meeting and deciding to cooperate, they say, on combating terrorism. CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Christiane, I want to ask you about the aspect of the situation that they were, these terrorists were targeting American citizens and British citizens, and why that would be, because India has suffered these kinds of terrorist attacks before, but they haven't really centered on American visitors or British visitors.

AMANPOUR: Well, precisely that. We've heard that from some of the eyewitnesses that they said that they were coming into the hotels, calling rooms, asking for Americans or British to come down.

We've heard the stiff condemnations from the President of the United States, from the Prime Minister of Great Britain, also from the Prime Minister, the new President of Pakistan. This is a chilling, a new development.

The question is why. Some of these groups have said that they, for instance, Indian Mujahideen have said that not only do they want their own rights in India, but that they oppose India's close relationship with the United States.

Still, that is unclear exactly why they would do that but the fact is that India, according to the State Department, is the nexus for so much terrorism and so much of these groups that one finds in the South Asia region.


GORANI: All right, our Christiane Amanpour there with analysis on the situation and the complicated geopolitical landscape out there in that part of the world.

Amid all the chaos, Mumbai is already beginning to mourn its dead. What you're seeing here is footage from our sister network, CNN/IBN, showing the clamor as the body of Mumbai's anti-terrorist squad chief is carried to his funeral. City southeast of Mumbai in Pune, Hemant Karkare (ph) was amongst those killed at the hotel Oberoi yesterday evening. As many as 11 other police officers died in the attack.

It was carefully planned and dramatically executed. It got the world's attention but who was behind it? We will have more on the search for answers and suspects in the Mumbai attacks.

Stay with us.


GORANI: Well, one question on everyone's mind is who is behind those deadly coordinated attacks on Mumbai? There has been a claim of responsibility, but experts are skeptical.

Phil Black tells us which way a lot of fingers are already pointing.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Indian government clearly has its own ideas about who was responsible for this.

SINGH: It is 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.

BLACK: Experts on India's security support the Prime Minister's theory. They believe the attackers were not exclusively home-grown.

SAJJAN GOHEL, TERRORISM EXPERT: What you're seeing is that these types of attacks are established as a network, as well-planned reconnaissance and logistics and financial support. It could only be from a group that is receiving international support, obviously with a domestic dimension.

BLACK: And analysts say Mumbai and westerners were specifically targeted, because of the operation's ambitious goals.

GOHEL: This time there was a multi-pronged approach. It wasn't just about targeting Indians; it was aimed but it wasn't the only one. They also wanted to go after westerners as well; they wanted to create a lack of confidence in people traveling to India, hit at the economy, hit at the tourism industry.

BLACK: One group has claimed responsible, the little known Deccan Mujahideen. But security experts don't believe it.

WILL GEDDES, SECURITY ANALYST: Deccan Mujahideen seemed to be this amazing group that has come out of nowhere, that has been operating under the radar after all this time, yet able to mount such a sophisticated and well-coordinated attack.

BLACK: Analysts believe this is more likely the work of another well- established outfit, like Lashkar-el-Taiba, the Pakistan-based Islamic militant who opposed Indian control in the disputed territory of Kashmir. A spokesman for Lashkar-el-Taiba says the group wasn't involved in the attacks in Mumbai and condemned them.

But the Indian authorities have blamed Lashkar for previous attacks like the 2001 assault India's parliament which brought the two countries to the verge of war and the bombing of this Mumbai train which killed more than 180 people in 2006. Terror strikes have become a regular part of life across India, but whoever did this wanted a strong reaction, and they've succeeded.

VIJAY DUTT, HINDUSTAN TIMES JOURNALIST: This attack in India has created a backlash which is equal to that of America and after 9/11.

BLACK: The investigation may have only just begun but already fingers are pointing across the border to militants in Pakistan.

Phil Black, CNN, London.


GORANI: Many of those trapped inside the two Mumbai hotels managed to make it to safety. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEEPAK DATTA, EYEWITNESS: And then as they were coming up, in the last two hours, there were several explosions right under my feet.


GORANI: But it wasn't easy, and neither building has yet been cleared of all attackers. Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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. But we could hear it or knew when the army were in; we could hear the army running through the hotel and we just heard all the gunfire and heard all the blasts.

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 hope I never do again.


GORANI: Well, that's just one of many terrifying accounts from people caught up in the chaos of the attacks.

Deepak Datta was dining in his room at the five-star Taj Mahal Hotel, when gunmen stormed the building Wednesday night. He talked earlier to CNN's Sara Sidner about his frightening ordeal.


DATTA: It started after 9:30 last night. I was having dinner, and I got a call from downstairs to immediately get up and turn all of my lights off and shut the blinds, and turned, if I have a mobile phone to turn it on silent.

So I immediately knew something was serious. Then I started getting some phone calls, and they say, oh, some people have run into your hotel, my friends, you know, because they were showing on the TV. Then the TV was, cable was cut off, and so then I got a call from U.S., that's where I'm from, so I got a call saying oh, because they have Indian channel over there, so they're saying, they're showing on the Indian channel your hotel and there is some fighting going on.

And I said yes I heard some fighting outside. And then there was an explosion so from that time until now, I have not been able to sleep a wink, and at 7:30 this evening, I was rescued by the commandos, in the U.S. like we call them the SWAT Team so they basically came in and they got me out of the room. And they were about 11 people, they rescued from my floor and the floor above. In my tower, at first I heard that some people had been kidnapped, and they've taken hostage, and they were taken on the 18th floor in the old wing. And I knew the old wing cannot be 18th floor because it only has eight floors so I said uh-oh, that's my building, and so -- after about 15, 20 minutes I heard heavy machine gun fire in the stairwell, right where I was.

So it looks like the commandos were basically chasing these guys who were taking people out, because two guys, they ran up, no two guys ran down from the hostages, so they ran away. And they are the ones who warned the police and the commandos that, in a new wing, also there are some --


GORANI: And don't go away; 40 minutes from now we'll bring you a CNN worldwide special presentation, "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" hosted by Anderson Cooper. That's at about 40 minutes from now on CNN and CNN International.

More news after the break.


GORANA: Reacting to the carnage, global leaders are speaking out. Here's "World Reaction" with Sasha Herriman.


SASHA HERRIMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Political leaders around the world are expressing shock at the horrific carnage that engulfed the City of Mumbai.

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Time will assess which group has been responsible. We don't have all the details. What the implications are for the rest of the world.

HERRIMAN: Even the Pope spoke out, a statement on the Vatican Website saying he was deeply concerned about the outbreak of violence and urgently appeals for an end to all kinds of acts of terrorism. There have been promises of help, from the British.

BROWN: At the same time as giving support to the Indian prime minister, we are sending police emergency teams that are well-versed in dealing with terrorism and we will try to give what support we can through British police and security officials.

SHERRIMAN: From the Australians.

SIMON CREAN, ACTING AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We also express our fundamental solidarity with the Indian government and its people.

SHERRIMAN: And from the Japanese.

TAKEO KAWAMURA, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY: Japan and India will continue to work closely to fight against terrorism. SHERRIMAN: President-elect Barack Obama said the United States must continue to strengthen partnerships with India, and nations around the world, to root out and destroy terrorist networks.

Even the president and the prime minister of Pakistan, the country Indian authorities claim is the home of the terrorists, strongly condemned the attacks.

But even if the worldwide declarations of disgust rang out, emergency services in India have begun the gruesome task of identifying the dead. It may be the task of some of the same world leaders who addressed the world today to address the heartbroken friends and families of the deceased tomorrow.

Sasha Herriman, CNN, London.


GORANI: Observers are concerned that the attacks could reignite tensions between Hindus and Muslims that have never really gone away over the last few decades and the disputed region of Kashmir is a long-standing flashpoint between the two communities.

To give you an idea of the religious makeup of India, here are some figures from the 2001 census. There are more than 827 million Hindus in India; that is about 80 percent of the country's population. Muslims are in the minority. They make up around 13 percent of the population, according to that census. And there are also 24 million Christians in India, about 2.3 percent of the country's religious demographic. And another 2 percent of India's people are Sikhs.

Now, for a look at some other stories we're following around the world.

Thailand's prime minister has declared a state of emergency at Bangkok's two main airports. They are overrun right now anti- government protesters and have been closed since Tuesday. Thousands of passengers are stranded. The demonstrators belong to the People's Alliance for Democracy, and have been leading protests since May in Thailand.

The Iraqi Parliament has voted to approve a new sweeping security pact with the United States. The deal includes that firm timetable for the withdrawal of all U.S. Troops from Iraq by December 31st, 2011. Now the assembly was forced to postpone the vote on Wednesday, due to some last-minute negotiations among Shiites and Sunnis.

And off the coast of France, a jetliner on a test flight has crashed into the Mediterranean with seven people aboard. Reports say at least one body has been found. It was an Airbus A320 and it belonged to Air New Zealand.

It's in the nature of a hostage situation for it to drag on and on, when there's a standoff. What are the plans for the besieged Jewish Center in Mumbai and what part will the Israelis play in ending it? Also ahead on CNN today, it's called the Global Voices and we're finding it to be a rich source of information from Mumbai. Stay with us.


GORANI: Very early morning in Mumbai. The streets of the city seem relatively quiet at this hour, but sporadic explosions rang out during the night. India's National Security Guard have been tight-lipped about what's going on at the standoff site.

Here's what we know. Some hostages and guests have been rescued from the Taj Palace and Oberoi Hotel but it's believed others are still inside with terrorists. One militant has reportedly been killed in the Oberoi where operations appear to be ongoing.

Several gunmen are also thought to be inside the Chabad house; that's a nearby Jewish Center. There're no official word on captives there but a rabbi spokesman says another rabbi and his wife are trapped inside.

India's state-run media say the terror attacks were well-coordinated by small bands of gunmen who arrived in the Port of Mumbai by boat.

We're going to look now at how the response to the mayhem developed and why the response was delayed at first. CNN-IBN's Simi Pasha takes us through that.


SIMI PASHA, CNN-IBN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 7:00 a.m. outside the imposing Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba, crack commandoes of the elite national security guards wait to storm the hotel. In their bitter rescue, dozens of hostages from terrorists holed up inside. The Mumbai police had just finished the first pre-operation briefing of the commandos on the layout of the hotel and its occupants.

It was more than nine hours after the hostage drama first began in India's financial capital, a time lag which has now left security and counterterrorism experts aghast.

VED MARWAH, FORMER COMMANDER GENERAL: There are arrangements in place in the national security guard where a commando squad is, can be mobilized in a matter of minutes.

PASHA: The handling of the Mumbai hostage crisis now suggests two disturbing outcomes. While experts agree there was an inordinate delay by the government in ordering commandos in the crisis thought a near amateurish method seem to have been used in scrambling them.

It was a mistake committed much earlier in 1999 while trying to block the pilots (ph) of Indian Airlines IC-814 when it took off for Kandahar. Sources tell CNN-IBN that the go-ahead for airlifting commandos came well past midnight. It took over three hours for them to scramble and take off for Mumbai. Commandos were brought to the encounter sports in BEST buses. The commandos had no precise maps detailing hotel layouts and access points. All this while the Mumbai police struggled to figure out the unprecedented situation.

K.P.S. GILL, FORMER DGP, PUNJAB: I think there was a certain degree of confusion, then this decision whether NSG should comment is the decision of the state government. And they will go by what they feel is the ground situation.

PASHA: The NSG, the marine commandos and the army special force units are the only ones equipped to deal with hostage rescue. Sources tell CNN-IBN that it took the killing of Chief Hemant Karkare from the Maharashtra ATS to realize it had underestimated the terror threat. It therefore decided to bring in the NSG. An early morning coordination meeting decided that the Navy commandos also be brought in.

Anti-terror and commando units are now grappling with a new scenario, unprecedented hostage situations in high-profile enclosed buildings never encountered in metropolitan India.

With Mansi Sherma (ph) in New Delhi, Simi Pasha.


GORANI: All right. Let's go straight to that Oberoi Hotel site, where one gunman is still believed to be inside. Mallika Kapur is keeping watch there and joins us now on the phone. The latest, Mallika, please.

ON THE PHONE: MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is, as you mentioned, we know that there is one gunman inside the Oberoi Hotel. One other gunman, the second gunman who's been hold up there for the last couple of hours, he was killed at about 1:00 a.m. local time. It's now 7:00 a.m. local time. He was killed by members of India's NSG, National Security Guard, which is India's elite commando squad.

So we do know that one gunman is still left inside the Oberoi Hotel. We don't know how many hostages there are, if there are any being held up there as well, or any residents of the hotel who were too scared to come out or who just couldn't make their way out in time or any employees of the hotel.

GORANI: So overnight, essentially, it's been rather calm at the Oberoi? What is that -- what are the security personnel telling you that means? I mean, does that mean that the standoff is pretty much over and that they're just waiting to catch that one lone gunman, or what does it say?

KAPUR: Security personnel aren't really telling us anything, but it does look like things have calmed down a bit. Certainly, there is indication that members of this NSG squad are making progress. They are the ones that are really combing through each and every floor, we are told, of the hotel, scouring the building for survivors, scouring the building for that one gunman as well.

So it does look like they've made some progress, because they did manage to nab one gunman, and we are down to just having one in there. But security personnel are the ones being quite tight-lipped, not even telling us whether they're in communication with the gunman inside, what the demands are or what they're asking for, Hala.

GORANI: All right. Mallika Kapur is right outside the Oberoi Hotel, one of two luxury hotels that were stormed by gunmen with automatic weapons and hand grenades. It appears as though the standoff in both locations is still ongoing.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be back with more news. But don't forget, in just about 25 minutes, this year's top ten CNN heroes will be honored. Stay tuned for "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" hosted by Anderson Cooper. These are extraordinary accomplishments by ordinary people, and it starts right after this program. You're with CNN.


ON THE PHONE: ANTHONY ROSE, WITNESSED FIRST ATTACK: Last night, I checked into my hotel, and basically and after I walked upstairs to the third floor, and next thing I had, I stepped into a restaurant to have a meeting. Then gunshots started erupting all in the lobby, and apparently they were shooting people there. Very much execution- style. One Australian guy was executed, shot in the leg first and then shot in the head.

We heard the gunshots. They came closer to us. Started barricading the door, gunshots shattered part of the door, and then we were kind of moving all our crew back through various corridors (ph) to try to barricade ourselves in. They were using hand grenades to try and blow in doors, and then they seemed to retreat from that, plus started to see other areas of the hotel. You could hear people it seemed like being dragged up to the roof of the hotel.

GORANI: Life was normal one minute, the next minute, ordinary people were jumping over bodies and running for their lives.

Now to the nearby Jewish center, the Chabad House. There were reports of loud explosions near the building early Friday local time. It's thought that the gunman inside are armed with grenades, so it's unclear who set off the blasts.

The center's rabbi and his wife are believed to be held hostage by an unknown number of gunmen right now, and Israeli rescue team is on its way to Mumbai to help free the hostages.

Let's find out more about the situation and the reaction to the situation at Chabad House and what the Israeli government is doing. We have got the Israeli ambassador to the United States Sallai Meridor on the line from Washington.

Ambassador, thanks for being with us.


GORANI: What kind of team, what kind of Israeli team is traveling to Mumbai to assist Indian authorities?

MERIDOR: You know, this is an event in India, and this is taken care of by the Indian government and their security forces. Israel offered India any kind of assistance that we can give them, and we are waiting there to hear their needs, and we would obviously respond to the needs.

This is a turn of events, a terror attack on India, on Westerners in India, and (INAUDIBLE) Israelis but many other nationals. This is a very, very sad reminder of the nature of the threat we are facing from extremist terrorists, Islamic terrorists, and the need of all of us, Americans, British, French, Indians, Israelis, to work together in protecting our lives, and our values, and our way of life.

GORANI: Is your understanding that there are several Israelis still trapped in that Jewish center? And how many total Israelis, to your knowledge, were victims, either trapped as hostages or injured or killed in these attacks?

MERIDOR: Well, we are working an assumption that is based on partial information is that there are a few Israelis in the Chabad House, which is the Jewish center there, which is serving over the years many young Israelis who are traveling into India. And we are concerned that there may be some Israelis in one of the hotels.

The information is still very partial, and we are watching it with great concern, and we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Indian people. In many ways, I think all of us in the democratic world should feel like we are all Indians tonight.

GORANI: By the way, Ambassador Meridor, I just want to bring our viewers up to date with what they're watching right now. These are live pictures around Nariman House. This is the Chabad center there, and we're seeing a helicopter hovering above the scene, as well. So you're really, essentially the Israeli team is on standby, and then depending on what the Indian authorities ask for, you are willing to provide that assistance, is that correct?

MERIDOR: Our minister of foreign affairs (INAUDIBLE) or defense had been in touch today with the Indian governments and we have offered not only solidarity but any assistance the Indian government may need. Our hearts are with them. Our concerns are with them, and we will continue together to protect the very values and the lives of our people.

GORANI: Now, what do you make of the statements of this, coming from the Indian prime minister in his speech to the nation that outside forces are probably responsible for these attacks? What did you make of that?

MERIDOR: Well, we do not know yet and I think everybody should wait for the findings of the investigation of the Indian authorities. At any rate, this event looks a very serious one, coordinated one, and in a way, at a level or a league that is extremely dangerous and worrying, exactly who was behind it, what were the motivations. It's something we have to wait for the facts. But at any rate, this is not the first one, and we have to all be together, cooperate all nations that care about the same values in order to protect ourselves from these evil terrorists.

GORANI: And has Israel advised its citizens not to travel to India or has no such travel advisory been issued?

MERIDOR: Well, I'm not aware of such a travel advisory at this stage. India is, as you know, a great country, both in size and in history, and in spirit. Israelis, many Israelis are traveling to India. This has become almost our get here after the army for many Israelis who go and travel in India and in those Indian countries surrounding India. Many Israeli businessmen are in India.

We have many partnerships between American companies, Israeli companies and Indian companies. So India is a place where many Israelis visit and have business with. And we certainly hope not to give the terrorists the victory of stopping our life...


MERIDOR: ... our way of life. And we have in front -- as we confront terror, one of the most important things is to continue your life, in many ways continue business as usual, because this is exactly what the terrorists would like to achieve, that we would be sidetracked from our lives and from our values, and we should not allow that to happen.

GORANI: Right. And ambassador, Mumbai is, of course, the financial heart of the country. It's where many deals are made with Israel and dozens of other countries, and businesspeople there in those hotels definitely caught. The innocent victims caught in the middle there of that.

Thank you, Ambassador Meridor, for joining us and staying online.

MERIDOR: Thank you and let's pray. Let's pray for everybody there.

GORANI: All right. Thank you, ambassador.

Let's listen in to CNN-IBN. There's a lot going on there around Chabad House. We saw a helicopter hovering, a commando being lowered down. Let's take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can see right now the street seem to be empty. The chopper has just moved out of here. The NSG personnel and the police personnel on the ground are still at their positions.

Now even after the chopper left, we heard some shots fired far away but now the situation seems very calm. There is not a noise there, but the people, the army, the NSG officials who had landed through the roof to the -- at Nariman House still are there somewhere in that street, beyond there.

There are also some NSG personnel right now who are moving in, closing in on the area, and it seems like they are closing in on the area to see, to prevent any untoward incident that would happen now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. This, Pasha (ph), looks like a multi- pronged attack. There are security NSG commandos landing from the roof. There are others barging in through the door. But we know in the five-star hotels at least, the cable connections were snapped to make sure the terrorists do not have access to television, to live pictures of the operation that is going on against them that we've been telecasting. Is that the case here at Nariman House as well? Or can they see, even as we speak, can they see those visuals of NSG commandos landing on to the rooftop?

Pasha (ph), are you still with us?

GORANI: All right. We're going to break away there from that coverage. It's our sister network, CNN-IBN, there in India that's been covering the activity and the operations around Chabad House. That's the Jewish center where we believe Israeli citizens are being held.

Let's rejoin now. I understand we have the audio back. Let's rejoin the coverage of our sister network.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The television right now, but we do not know if they have any other source of information. With do not know about their mobile phones or any wireless or any such connection that they might have. But as far as TV is concerned, it doesn't seem likely that they would be able to watch TV because the power in the area has been cut off since yesterday at night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Pasha (ph), just describe to us what you're seeing on your cell right now. I know the streets are deserted. There are police officials everywhere you see and no gunfire being heard at least in the last couple of minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. What I can see right now is that the streets are deserted. There are some NSG and police --

GORANI: It's the drama of a live rescue attempt there in Mumbai. It's the Chabad House that's a Jewish center. We understand a rabbi, his wife, and possibly two other people are being held by gunmen. This is one of ten sites that was attacked just about 30 hours ago in Mumbai by armed militants, with automatic weapons and hand grenades at sites all across the southern part of Mumbai, the commercial heart, the financial heart of India.

Our coverage of the Mumbai attacks continues, but we are also standing by at the top of this hour for a CNN special presentation, "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute." It begins in about ten minutes' time. It's hosted by Anderson Cooper. It's coming up in just a few minutes.

Don't go away. Stay with CNN.


GORANI: Well, when it comes to the Mumbai attacks, the Internet has been a source of instantaneous information -- bloggers, message boards, video sharing.

Our Guillermo Arduino has it all. He's been monitoring the Web for that and also has a guest he's going to be speaking with.

Hi there, Guillermo.

GUILLERMO ARDUINO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Hala. You know that there's a Web site that has given us a great deal of content. It's

One of the most recent posts is from Kalyan Varma whose angry at the mainstream media. It reads, "In tough economic and global times like this, we will win only if we move on with our lives and keep this behind. This is how we fight terror, not overreacting," referring to the media.

While Smoke Signals post this. "The rational corner of my mind tells me that there's no security measure, no multi-core security plan that can permanently inoculate me and my fellow Mumbaikars against what is becoming a gory ritual."

Also, I've been monitoring coverage in some newspapers online. We're going to start with this.

The Italian "Corriere Della Sera" has the Mumbai story on its front page. They highlight not only one Italian city among the more than 100 deaths after the attack. They cite three names of the seven hostages of Italian origin still inside the Oberoi Trident Hotel, according to the newspaper.

And an interesting article by Yaakov Lappin (ph) on "The Jerusalem Post" cites a senior Indian defense source stating that the Mumbai attacks were aimed at halting India's increasingly close relationship with the United States, Britain and Israel.

In fact, joining me now from New York to provide some perspective is Mumbai native Suketa Mehta. He's the author of "Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found."

Let's talk a little bit about the coverage and also, Suketa, what I want to do is get perspective to this story. What do we have behind all this? And there are many critical parts that we still don't know. What can you tell us?

SUKETA MEHTA, AUTHOR: That's right. It's still not entirely clear who these men are, and who is masterminding them. But what seems apparent is that this is the scale and scope of this attack is something that Mumbai has never seen. These men have been professionally trained to be able to come to the city in boats with all these weapons and hold off the police forces for two days running. This is not something that homegrown boys from the slums can do.

ARDUINO: Now, a minute ago, one of the comments were about Mumbai? But why Mumbai? Because it's a commercial center? It's a busting city that is growing like crazy economically? Why? MEHTA: Well, it is a commercial center. It is a traveling beating commercial heart of India, and it is to India what New York is to the United States. But more than just money, it symbolizes hope.

Bombay (ph) is the home of not only the stock exchange but also Bollywood, the dream factory. So the Taj Mahal, the Taj Hotel is recognizable to all Indians and indeed all South Asia because it's been featured so often in the Bollywood films.

ARDUINO: It's a symbol.

MEHTA: It is a symbol.

ARDUINO: It is a symbol, exactly.

MEHTA: It's a symbol, exactly.

ARDUINO: And now, what about religion? Because we can talk about philosophical issues in this case, what it means. And what about religion, because 80 percent of the country Hindus, right, and 13 percent we say Muslims? Is this an Islamic terrorist group behind or not?

MEHTA: Well, it's, again, I think too early to tell, and indications are that it is an outgrowth of the radical (ph) jihadi groups in the region. But (INAUDIBLE) until recently, there were more Muslims living in India than in Pakistan so they're rotating (ph) with their feet. And the vast majority of Muslims in the country feel appalled at this. So my guess is that this particular group has international connections.

ARDUINO: And that's interesting to see. We have to look at South Asia in general, from our context, and see that there are many focus of terrorists and that they say that it's easy for them to bring, to come from one to the other one, and reform and move on.

MEHTA: That's right. Indian Muslims have so far not been radicalized. There are hardly any Indian recruits to al-Qaeda. You know, they come from everywhere else in the world. So one of the things that these terrorists want to do is to force the government to crack down upon Indian Muslims with a heavy hand and thereby radicalize Indian Muslims. It hasn't happened yet.

They also want to pit Hindus and Muslims against each other in a replay of the bloody '92-'93 riots in Bombay. And lastly, they want to drive India and Pakistan further apart.

ARDUINO: Now, you mentioned a little bit Pakistan. The Indian prime minister was very careful about mentioning a country. He did not -- he said there were foreigners behind these attacks. What about Pakistan?

MEHTA: Well, when he says foreigners most Indians know he means either Pakistan or Bangladesh. But most Indians also know that the Pakistani state is kind of amorphous entity and there are different power centers within Pakistan, who have different kinds of goals and different means of acting, and some of this is ascribable to a kind of politics within Pakistan.


Suketa Mehta, author and professor of journalism at New York University, thank you for your time and your perspective.

MEHTA: Thank you, Guillermo.

ARDUINO: We are going to give you also an idea of what our viewers are saying. They are weighing in as well.

Julius Muindi in Kenya writes, "The world must brace itself. If not, we're all going to become prisoners by the change of tact of the terrorists, attacking soft targets."

Another one, "We must change the techniques we use to hunt them down. We must be as dynamic as they are."

Now, that's the end of the first e-mail.

Now let's go to the next one. Bidhin Patel e-mails us and says, "The international community should convince Pakistan to help them to (ph) root out the terrorist training camps. There is no doubt that blaming the Pakistani government that the roots of terrorists are in Pakistan."

This is viewers' opinions. And send us your thoughts. Thank you very much for those who participated. The e-mail address is

Hala, we want to tell our viewers, be sure to include your name and where you're writing from as well.

GORANI: All right. And we might read -- we might read one of the e- mails you send us.

ARDUINO: Absolutely.

GORANI: About later in the coming hours. Thank you, Guillermo Arduino.

ARDUINO: Thank you.

GORANI: Just to bring our viewers up to date with the latest from Mumbai, 125 people dead, more than 300 injured. Ten sites attacked in Mumbai with several flash points still ongoing.

There are commando operations outside of a Jewish center right now, where we understand a rabbi and his wife and perhaps other people are still being held. And also an ongoing situation at two luxury hotels, this, more than 24 hours after more than 100 people were killed by armed gunmen.

All right. I'm Hala Gorani at the CNN Center. Do stay with us right here on CNN, and CNN International, a worldwide broadcast.

"CNN Heroes" hosted by Anderson Cooper, an all-star tribute" from the Kodak Theatre, and it begins right now. Stay with us.