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Among Americans Confirmed Dead In Mumbai: Teen/Dad On Spiritual Pilgrimage, Rabbi, Wife, Reaching Out To Traveling Orthodox Jews; Helping The Poor In Mumbai
Aired November 28, 2008 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Fifty hours of hell in Mumbai. A fight to the death pitting highly trained attackers who took this city by storm, and elite commandos determined to take the city back; in the crossfire, innocent civilians. Many of them rescued, many of them safe, many others, not.
Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips live in the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM
It's Saturday in Mumbai, half past midnight, in a city that's been under siege since terrorists stormed in from the sea Wednesday night. Here's what we know right now. At least 160 people are dead, including at least 15 foreigners, and 16 police officers. And 11 or more attackers are dead as well. And gunmen who have not been captured or killed are believed to be hold up in the Taj Mahal hotel, which Indian commandos are fighting to secure right now.
At least two Americans are dead. A father and his teenage daughter from Virginia. They, and many others, were killed at the Hotel Oberoi. At the Jewish center known as a Chabad House, a rabbi who had moved to Mumbai from New York was killed, along with his wife and three other hostages. The couple's young son was smuggled to safety yesterday by his nanny.
Here is the layout in Mumbai. What began as a rolling rampage just after 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday, came down yesterday to three down violent standoffs, then two, finally one.
At the moment, it's not entirely clear whether one or more attackers is still on the loose in the Taj Mahal Hotel, a Mumbai landmark, by the way. The standoff at the nearby Oberoi Hotel ended with the killing of two attackers and the rescue of surviving guests and employees. Thirty dead bodies have been recovered from the Oberoi to date. The siege at the Chabad house ended with a death of at least two attackers, five hostages and the rabbi living there with his wife.
The deaths at the Hotel Oberoi include Alan Scherr, a 58-year-old American from Virginia and his 13-year-old daughter, Naomi. They were traveling with more than 20 other members of a community called Synchronicity, which promotes meditation. Four others from the group are hurt. Scherr's wife Kia and the couple's two other children stayed behind in Virginia.
CNN Editorial Producer Beth Rotatori spoke with Kia Scherr earlier today. Beth joins me now on the phone. Beth, tell us about the Scherr's community and what prompted Alan and Naomi to go to India the first place.
BETH ROTATORI, CNN EDITORIAL PRODUCER: Well, Kyra, as you mentioned the Scherr's are part of a community led by the Synchronicity Foundation. The foundation based in Faber, Virginia, that promotes a specific kind of meditation. This particular form of meditation focuses on listening to relax the mind, as opposed to chanting a mantra to relax the mind. They had organized a pilgrimage, a retreat to India, to share the particular kind of meditation that they practice with the people. They were also planning on visiting some historical, spiritual landmarks and meeting and learning from some teachers who the founders of the Synchronicity organization had studied under.
PHILLIPS: Beth, apparently they have just started a news conference talking specifically about the Scherrs and the Synchronicity Foundation. Let's go ahead and listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
BOBBIE GARVEY, SYNCHRONICITY FOUNDATION: ... Naomi were extreme, valued members of this community. Alan was a vice president, as well as I. He was our chief writer. He created most of the programming. He was a brilliant, passionate Vedic astrologer, just, just -- an asset. He traveled with Master Charles. He was actually Master Charles' spokesperson.
And Naomi, this bright, intelligent 13-year-old, who was raised here, finished eighth grade, home schooled, a year early. Decided she wanted to see the rest of the world, you know, away from the sanctuary, on her own. Took the SSATs, scored 92 percent nationally, got herself to go on this trip to India, because her main focus was, besides visiting all of these places that her father has talked about for years and years to her, this was what she was going to write her essay about to, on her application to the Emma Willard School, in Troy, New York, which is the famous girl's boarding school. Because she says she's going there and was going to get a scholarship and I believe her.
QUESTION: Can you tell me a little bit about what was the purpose and is this a regular thing? Do you send out missions like this throughout the world or is this out of the ordinary?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not usual. It's actually the first time that this has occurred. I would not call it a mission. Master Charles, in his own right, travels the world and has for many, many years, teaching and presenting his hi-tech meditation. So when he would go to India, because there are his roots, all of his community all over the world would say, I want to go with you. Please take me. You know, I want to go to India with you. I want to see what you're talking about.
He finally said this year, OK, get a trip together. We're taking them. Whoever wants to go. We did; 25 people signed up. This was like a pilgrimage. They went there to enjoy him, but to also to enjoy the country and all the sights and all the spirituality of India with him.
QUESTION: (OFF MIC)
QUESTION: (OFF MIC)
GARVEY: I don't know what you would term a member. Yes, they were all meditators. They all meditated with the Synchronicity hi-tech technology. And the 25 that actually went were probably 25 of our hundreds of closest ones we'll say. They were daily meditators. They were at our in-home meditation program. Came to retreats four times a year.
QUESTION: Not just from Virginia, from all over?
GARVEY: Oh, no. They were four Canadians, there were seven Australians and 16 Americans.
QUESTION: (OFF MIC)
GARVEY: Four were wounded and two lost their life.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to the mother yet? (OFF MIC)
GARVEY: Many times. I actually told her at 5:00 this morning.
QUESTION: You told her?
QUESTION: And is she here, or is she in Florida?
GARVEY: She is right now in Florida with her mother, and her older two sons, and her family.
QUESTION: What did you say to her?
GARVEY: Well, we never keep the facts from anyone, so she, up to this point, knew the facts. She knew that they were missing. She knew that they were in the cafe. She knew that the others, you know, what they saw. So there was always the possibility that this was, you know, eventuality of it. She -- is in mourning, she's grieving. She goes in and out of periods speaking, non-speaking. She's a mother and a wife, and --
QUESTION: Naomi has a brother?
GARVEY: Naomi has two half brothers. They are Kia's boys. They're older. They both live in Florida.
QUESTION: How do you regard the terrorists that did this, that taking of life?
GARVEY: How do I regard them? They're walking where their feet are. They're part of the entire -- the 95 percent of the population on this planet that is in fragmentation or denial, so we speak, and doing what they saw - they thought was right to do. They were training to be terrorists.
QUESTION: Can you discuss the entire pilgrimage? Is this, Mumbai, the beginning, the end? Where else were they going to go in the country? And what kinds of things did you expect them to see?
GARVEY: No, it was a pilgrimage to Mumbai. They left on November 14th. They were going to return on December the 1st. The things they were going to see were day trips from Mumbai. They went to Ganeshpur, where Babba Muktananda's ashram was, and his shrine is. And they visited three or four other ashrams of the some of the Mahananda Leshwars over there that are affiliated with Master Charles and this foundation.
QUESTION: Where was Master Charles during the attack? (OFF MIC)
(END LIVE FEED, IN PROGRESS)
PHILLIPS: Bobbie Garvey is the spokesperson for the Synchronicity Foundation. That is the foundation that this young girl, 13-year-old Naomi Scherr, and her 58-year-old father, Alan Scherr were participating in as they went, as Bobbie was explaining, on a spiritual pilgrimage to Mumbai. A meditation trip, through the Synchronicity Foundation; something that a lot of people go to India for. For the culture, the history and heritage there in India.
Bobbie Garvey talking about the loss of life of both Alan and his daughter, Naomi. The attackers taking their lives, within the past 50 hours of the rampage that has taken place. As we have been covering for the past couple of days.
Beth Rotatori, one of our CNN bookers, actually, was able to talk to Alan's wife, Naomi's mother, since this all happened. As you can imagine, this is an extremely hard time for her, not ready to give any interviews, but did share a little bit with Beth.
Beth, it's got to be just hard to realize that this is happening, especially your husband and daughter, so far away. I'm assuming she's still here in the States, and what is next?
ROTATORI: Right. I spoke with, as you say, Kyra, I spoke with Kia Scherr a little earlier this morning and she shared with me the fact that she had learned from an official at the U.S. consulate in Mumbai, the fact that her husband, Alan, and her daughter Noemi had, in fact, been killed in the terrorist attack in Mumbai there.
She told me also that she's continuing to work with representatives at the consulate in Mumbai to make plans to bring and arrangements to bring Alan and Naomi's remains back to the United States. Those plans are obviously in the works right now. And she's also working with Bobbie Garvey, and others, at the Synchronicity Foundation, in Virginia, to arrange for memorial services for Alan and Naomi.
So, she's obviously - she's grieving, she's with her family, and they're also trying to deal with the logistics that go along with a really unfortunate incident like this. She's dealing with a lot right now, but when I spoke with her, I was very struck by her calmness and her - just her calm and sweet demeanor, as she discussed this really terrible tragedy with me.
PHILLIPS: Well, Beth, appreciate you getting a chance to talk to her and just kind of relay those sentiments with us.
We were talking about 58-year-old Alan Scherr, you see here, and his daughter, Naomi, actually that is his wife. There is his daughter. They were killed, two of the 160 innocent civilians killed in the shootouts with the terrorists there in Mumbai, India.
Also being mourned today, a young rabbi and his wife, among the five hostages killed at the Chabad House Jewish Center. That center served as the Mumbai headquarters of an ultra-orthodox Jewish movement. Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg ran the synagogue there, after moving there from New York, giving religious teachings and helping the poor. Back in New York, Holtzberg's organization remembered the 29- year-old rabbi and his wife, Rivka.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RABBI YEHUDA KRINSKY, CHABAD LUBAVITCH: We, indeed the entire world, who are all praying, until now, that Gabby and Rivka would be spared along with the remaining hostages. Alas, now the situation has changed. This news is fresh and the wound is raw. Words are inadequate to express our outrage and deep pain at the tragic act of cold-blooded murder of innocent men, women and children, fuelled by causeless hatred.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: The couple's two-year-old son was also at the Chabad House, but a worker, at the center managed to rescue him. The rest of the rabbi's family, you can imagine, what they're going through right now. CNN's Mary Snow has reached out to them. She joins us now live from New York - Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, as you can imagine. So much shock here in Crown Heights, where the Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife lived before moving to Mumbai. And so much pain here in this community. We're being joined, you just saw the Rabbi Yahuda Krinsky give the news conference earlier today. Rabbi Krinsky is joining us live.
First of all, we want to express our condolences to you. You've had a crises center set up here in this community for the last 48 hours trying to get us the very latest information. Tell us why the Rabbi Holtzberg went to Mumbai. This was five years ago that he left, correct?
YAHUDA KRINSKEY, RABBI: He went there as part of a group of slochan (ph), emissaries that represent a movement and a rabbi, Rabbi Shnitz (ph), and who headed the movement for decades, because he wanted to reach out to people and help them in every conceivable way, with all the needs they may ever have, whether material needs or , spiritual needs. Of course, Jewish information opportunity to -- for people to come in and have a place, a home away from home, a respite, whether they tourists, whether there was a regular, the community, or whether it was business people traveling, and needed -- had various needs. Sometimes just a discussion, people looking for counsel. That's what he and his wife devoted their lives to.
SNOW: From the information that you've been able to gather, as I mentioned, you have this crisis center, inside your headquarters, can you give us any information about what happened and -- and why?
KRINSKY: Well, I think the world knows what happened on Wednesday afternoon New York time, when a group of terrorists stormed a certain section of Mumbai, and one of the buildings stormed were the Chabad House. And the world watched in outrage, disbelief and helplessness to an extent. We're hoping that the results would be better, that the hostages would survive, that nobody would have been murdered, brutally as they were. Our people, who were in the Chabad House and those who were accompanying our young couple, who led that particular community, would be - would get out - would be saved.
SNOW: From what I understand, your organization released a statement earlier saying that Rabbi Holtzberg had made a call out of the Chabad House Wednesday night, after the attackers had entered the building, correct?
KRINSKY: Yes, he did.
SNOW: And that was the last -
KRINKSY: And that was the last communication with him. He said, in Hebrew that, the situation is not good.
SNOW: And then the phone went dead?
SNOW: Their child - the couple's child will be two, tomorrow. The child was able to get out?
KRINKSY: Ironically, tomorrow is his second birthday, 24 months. He was miraculously saved by his nanny. Although he left the building, his clothing was drenched in blood. He didn't exactly what was happening. He'll never see his parents again. His parents will not be able to celebrate his birthday with him tomorrow, and embrace him and kiss him, and love him again. For that purpose, for the upbringing of the child, Lubavitch and the family of emissaries, some 10,000 strong will take care of his education, his upbringing. Until he can become a self-sustaining adult. And we have created this morning, a special website for a foundation.
SNOW: And that is?
KRINSKY: It is www.chabadindia.com. If anybody wants to participate monetarily or otherwise, can contact that website, or they can write to our headquarters and we will be delighted to accept their participation and they will have a big mitzvah.
SNOW: Rabbi Krinsky, thank you for joining us. And again, our condolences to you and the community here.
And, Kyra, you know so many people I been talking to throughout the day have said they were holding out hope to the very last second and there was hope this morning of good news, but obviously so much pain now in this community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
PHILLIPS: Understandably. Mary Snow, appreciate it
Hard to imagine more terrifying feeling than being trapped in the middle of a terrorist assault. Mumbai survivors tell their stories.
PHILLIPS: Just to bring you up to date, so far what we can tell you, the Taj Mahal Hotel is the last remaining hot spot in the Mumbai firestorm. CNN's Sara Sidner is there. We've got her on the phone.
Sarah, bring us up to date on the last remaining gunman, if you can.
SARAH SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Same situation, basically. This has been going on now, it's almost 1 in the morning here, in Mumbai, into its third day. What happened typically, in the evening as it gets quite late, the scene sort of quiets down. Fewer people, fewer journalists even, in the area, and then every now and then, maybe in a couple of hours, there are shots, there are loud bangs coming from the area.
Time and again, you've heard authorities saying say such as, we think we're going to have this taken care of soon. But that has not been the case for more than 48 hours now. So, Kyra, still very similar to what has been happening the last 48 hours.
PHILLIPS: Sara Sidner, working incredible hours for us and staying on top of this story. We'll continue to check in with you throughout the rest of the day.
Now, when the terrorists targeted Mumbai, they sent shock waves across the world. And you can bet Washington is feeling them right now as well. Let's get straight to our State Department Correspondent Zain Verjee. She has been following that aspect of things.
You know we've been giving that phone number out for about a day and a half now, Zain. What else is the State Department saying?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: The State Department is saying that it believes there are still Americans at risk on the ground. It is saying that if you're in the country, and need to get information on friends or family, call that number you just saw on the screen. 1-888-407-4747.
You know, Kyra, they're telling us that ever since they put that number out on Wednesday, they're getting something like 1,500 calls from this country. That really gives you a sense of the scope, of how many people had friends or family out in India. The State Department, though, their main priority is to account for all U.S. citizens in Mumbai and try and help anyone who needs it.
PHILLIPS: Zain, did you hear the story, I just had a chance to talk to --
VERJEE: I did.
VERJEE: It was amazing.
PHILLIPS: Jonathan Macoff (ph).
Yes, the fact that here he was, sending his parents information to the consulate, the consulate started text messaging them, got in touch with a Indian army. They gave a password and were able to get them out after 40 hours of being hold up in that hotel.
VERJEE: It's really incredible. And that's a success story for the State Department, for the family, who is so fortunate under such dangerous and difficult circumstances. But there are hundreds of others who are calling and trying to get information. The State Department says it's helping as best it can. What it has done, Kyra, on the ground, it is leaving the consulate open. Anyone who needs emergency passports, and just needs to leave and travel, and they've lost and don't have their passports can do that.
Consular officials are also combing hospitals and the hotels to see if they can get anymore information, if there are any more U.S. casualties. They're also telling us they're moving staff, Kyra, from all around India to beef up this operation. So hopefully there can be more stories like Jonathan's. But it is really a feather in the State Department's cap, that they managed to pull that off.
It also gives you an idea of the working relationship between the Indian government, Indian officials and the United States, key allies effective in that specific incident.
PHILLIPS: And Secretary of State, right now, Condoleezza Rice involved still intensely at this point?
VERJEE: Oh yes, Kyra. She's at Camp David, keeping President Bush briefed, keeping President-Elect Obama in the loop. She's basically working the phones and talking to all the key players in this. There's a really a major challenge here for the United States, for Secretary Rice. Clearly there is an Indian component, a very likely Pakistani component here. The challenge for Secretary Rice is to work together with both, without the other feeling threatened. It's a real delicate, a very difficult, and dangerous balancing act. She's also got to set it up for the next secretary of State to take it over, so they don't miss a beat.
PHILLIPS: Zain Verjee, State Department correspondent, there, out of Washington, D.C. Thanks, Zain. VERJEE: Thank you, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Mumbai made for an attractive target; the shiny, wealthy financial heart of India. We're going to examine the implications of its economic success.
PHILLIPS: With the economy in the tank, a lot of analysts wondered if shoppers would stay home today. But as you can see, the crowds lined up for another Black Friday. Some stores opened as early as midnight to lure people in and they've also offered huge discounts to try to move some stock. But the sales are so big, they're expected to dampen profits.
At a Wal-Mart on Long Island, New York, police say that a worker actually died after a crowd broke through the doors and trampled him, just as the store opened at 5 this morning. Wal-Mart has not confirmed the stampede took place. It does say a medical emergency caused it to close the store. A pregnant woman and three other shoppers were slightly injured and taken to the hospital.
The siege of Mumbai, we're witnessing its final stages. Fifty plus hours after bands of attackers spanned out across India's financial and entertainment capital. At least one of those attackers, maybe the last one not yet captured or killed, is believed to be still hold up in the Taj Mahal hotel. It's not clear how many other people may be held, or trapped, or actually hurt, or dead inside.
And a standoff ended a short time earlier at the ultra Orthodox Jewish center, known as the Chabad House. Indian commandos, who fought their way inside, found the bodies of five hostages, including the rabbi in residence and his wife. Two gunmen were found dead as well.
Well, it's too early to know for sure, but Mumbai may have been attacked for the very reason that it is loved by Western businesses. CNN's Jim Bolton reports from London.
JIM BOLTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A city under siege, a financial capital crippled. Mumbai is India's commercial heart and that may be why it, and it's top hotels were targeted.
JO JOHNSON, FINANCIAL TIMES: Everybody's doing business in India and that now is pretty much every big company in the world, will have passed through the gates of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. It is the place where business gets done.
BOLTON: The other hotel, the Oberoi, had airline crew members among the guests caught up in the attacks. It's very likely Mumbai will take a financial hit, if only briefly.
SHARON BAMFORD, U.K. INDIA BUSINESS COUNCIL: My concern at the moment is this kind of media attention will perhaps detract, the smaller businesses, the companies that are maybe going to be put off thinking I must analyze my risks, is it too risky? Maybe I should go to other markets that are safer.
BOLTON: An old Indian psalm says Mumbai is a door to the east with its face to the west. As Bombay, it was the center of British business for centuries. Its deep harbor, the main attraction. Today, that harbor is full of luxury yachts. Mumbai also benefits from its time zone. Its work day starts when Tokyo is up and running. It shares many hours with London and ends its day after New York is open for business. One reason why many Western banks and IT firms have bases there. Though Mumbai was already suffering a stiff fall in property prices and layoffs by the likes of Citigroup and others.
JAKE STRATTON, CONTROL RISKS: It puts Mumbai at a hard time, but if you look at the overall Indian picture, 6 percent growth forecast for this year, a lot of countries would be very pleased with that. It's a resilient economy and it's, I don't think it's going to have a long term affect.
BOLTON: India is no stranger to terrorism. Mumbai has been hit before, but this is different. The targets are popular with tourists and businesses. But Mumbai will recover quickly, say those who know its soul. Jim Bolton, CNN, London.
PHILLIPS: Now let's talk about the survivors. A Canadian man recounting his escape. He says he ignored a knock at the door, suspecting it was an armed terrorist. He then gathered his things and ran for the exit, leading others to safety along the way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN EHRLICH, CANADIAN BUSINESSMAN: They do not discriminate. They don't care. This isn't rational. This is pure unadulterated evil. And if I was standing there -- first of all, I'm Jewish. And if they knew I was Jewish, I'd be dead. But if I was carrying my children or if I was walking with an elderly person, they don't care. It doesn't matter. They would have shot me dead. There is no remorse in their heart. This is an evil ideology that is unfortunately indiscriminate. It does not matter. It does not matter whether you're on the left, on the right, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you were there and you looked American and that means you were dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Andi Varagona of Nashville was one of the American citizens wounded in those attacks. She called home to tell her husband that she was ambushed and shot. She was hit in the arm and the leg and is expected to be hospitalized for four to five days. Her friend was shot in the back. We don't know her condition.
The terrorist siege in Mumbai and firsthand accounts from CNN's i-Reporters. These images from Aaron Kadri show the Leopold Restaurant. It's a popular tourist spot where gunmen walked in and opened fire. Mumbai natives says that security in the city is appalling. He's hoping the Indian government will make use of the tragic lessons learned from the attacks. We want to hear from you. When you witness news, share it with us. Just go to iReport.com. But remember, stay safe.
PHILLIPS: Just after 1:00 a.m. in India. Here's what we know from the terror rampage in Mumbai at this point. At least 160 people are dead, including Indians, foreigners and police, but not including 11 or more terrorists.
The last of that group is still holed up in the Taj Mahal Hotel, which Indian commanders are still fighting to secure. A Virginia man and his teenage daughter were among those killed at Mumbai's Hotel Oberoi. But many other guests, including a baby, went free when the standoff ended there earlier today.
When fighting ended at the Chabad House, a rabbi who had moved to Mumbai from New York, was found dead, along with his wife and three other hostages. The couple's young son, who turns two tomorrow, was actually smuggled to safety yesterday by his nanny.
Now some facts about Mumbai. It's India's largest city, with about 19 million people living there. Mumbai was known as Bombay until the name was changed in 1995. It's located on India's west coast. It's also the country's financial capital and home to India's Hindi language film industry known as Bollywood. This assault on Mumbai has proven a tactical challenge for police and military forces. Sprawling hotels to clear, innocent civilian hostages and gunmen with itchy trigger fingers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had started fighting, again the same personality, the kind of people, with no remorse. Anybody who's ever came in front of them, they fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Well, training to take on those types of gunmen terrorist hostage takers takes years of discipline and tactics. Howard Robertson knows this all too well. He is the former SWAT commander for the New Orleans Police Department, a city known for one of the highest crime rates in the country.
Howard, for the past hour and a half, you and I have been talking about the tactics, the challenges the commandos still have right now. Things that they've done well, things that they've done not so well. I'm curious, what can other departments here in the United States, even internationally, learn from what we've been seeing for the past 51 hours?
HOWARD ROBERTSON, FORMER CMDR, NEW ORLEANS POLICE SWAT: The one thing I took away was that no police department, no SWAT team is prepared to handle this, especially when you have four or five different incidents happening at the same time.
The one thing we should all take away is that you better work with the Metropolitan police departments because when you have trouble, you're going to have to call on your neighbors to send their teams to help you out.
You know, local police officers are not trained. Like you saw here in India, the local officers are not trained to handle this. You need specialists to handle this. And the military can't come in for hours. That leaves the local SWAT teams. So you'd better get together.
The local police departments around the country don't share the same radio systems. So like with us, with our neighbors in Jefferson parish, we can't communicate. That's the kind of things that should be addressed right away, so that we're all on the same page. So that it doesn't happen, what happened in India.
PHILLIPS: Well and apparently that is what happened, that there wasn't great communication between law enforcement and military. That's what happened here in the United States with 9/11.
ROBERTSON: Absolutely. It happened during Hurricane Katrina here in New Orleans, where people couldn't communicate because we're all on different radio systems. Now that's been changed Katrina, but it only works out for like a national. If a hurricane's coming, we bring out the radios and pass it around. It doesn't work every day.
PHILLIPS: You know what's interesting? Back in January of 1973, I remember when you were on the force, you had to deal with that gunman Mark Essex at the Howard Johnson's hotel in New Orleans. It's the same type of thing that was going on at these hotels. What did you learn from that? Did you see similarities in what was happening at the hotels in Mumbai?
ROBERTSON: Kyra, the incident in 1973 where we had a sniper on top of a high-rise hotel, and he set fires inside the hotel to draw the fire department to the scene.
When the fire department came, he started shooting the firemen off the ladders. That was his whole ruse, was to get first responders there. Then he started shooting guests of the hotel to cause chaos and get people running around. He waited in a stairway of the hotel, figuring the police are going to come up the stairway because the hotel was on fire, and then just started shooting at the stairway with the bullets ricocheting, killed several police officers until he held hostage for like two days, he held it in a building.
So I'm well aware of the incident that was going through. And that was just one building. They had five different locations that they were dealing with.
With us in New Orleans, with the Howard Johnson, I can tell you, we did not have communications. You had citizens with guns out there shooting at the building. You had police officering running around with guns that weren't trained with accidental discharges because they didn't know what they were doing.
So much was learned from that incident that we're so much better today than we were, but we're not prepared to handle for something like in India. No police department is. So we better look at this and use it as a training film to get ready.
PHILLIPS: Wow. And even the military and the commandos, military commandos and also law enforcement said when they got on the scene, even up to today, that this has been really difficult and a huge challenge and they were very surprised at how advanced that these guys were in India. There's this one allegedly -- allegedly one remaining gunman at the Taj Mahal Hotel, 50 plus hours into this now, what do you do?
ROBERTSON: Kyra, I'll tell you, I've trained with Delta. And I've trained with Seotein 5 (ph). And their mentality is totally different. And I'm surprised that this hasn't been ended at this time. The only thing that could be keeping them from ending this is that there have to be explosives or something stopping them from making an entry and ending it right now. Otherwise, it would be over.
PHILLIPS: We'll follow it. Former SWAT commander with the NOPD, Howard Robertson. Always great to have you on, Howard, thanks so much.
ROBERTSON: Thanks, Kyra. Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Americans killed or wounded half a world away. At the White House, they're monitoring the Mumbai situation and offering help to the Indian government.
PHILLIPS: They killed 160 people. They put India's largest city under siege, but who are they? We're on the trail of the terrorists.
PHILLIPS: President Bush remains at Camp David today getting constant updates on the situation in Mumbai. He's called the Indian prime minister to offer U.S. support and condolences. He's also just issued a statement on the American fatalities in Mumbai. CNN's Brianna Keilar has the latest from the White House. What do they have to say, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kyra. We have a new statement from President Bush who is at Camp David, where he was celebrating Thanksgiving. This coming of course after the State Department made it official that two Americans among those killed in Mumbai. President Bush expressing his condolences saying, that he's deeply saddened by this news.
And he goes on to say, "My administration has been working with the Indian government and the international community as Indian authorities work to ensure the safety of those still under threat." He says, "We will continue to cooperate against these extremists who offer nothing but violence and hopelessness."
Now yesterday, President Bush was on the phone with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, basically offering any help that the U.S. could give to India, including investigating exactly how these coordinated terror attacks happened.
There's also a group of Bush administration officials, counterterrorism officials, intelligence officials, the National Security Council, the president's top national security advisers, convening with representatives from the State Department and the Defense Department, figuring out exactly what the U.S. involvement should be in this.
And President Bush has been getting regular updates from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice herself. She was actually at Camp David for Thanksgiving, continues to be there with the first family, so she is briefing him on the latest developments.
And as well, Kyra, the Bush administration keeping the president- elect transitional government in the loop as well. Secretary of Rice Condoleezza Rice has spoken with Barack Obama and President-elect Obama has actually put together a team so that he can communicate with the State Department and really keep an eye on what's going on in India, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right, Brianna Keilar from the White House, thanks so much.
Well the attacks were coordinated, well planned and devastating. We know that for sure. But there's a lot we don't know, including who did it. Here's CNN's Phil Black.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Indian government clearly has its own ideas about who was responsible for this.
MANMOHAN SINGH, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks based outside the country have 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 homegrown.
SAJJAN GOHEL, TERRORISM EXPERT: What you're seeing is that these types of attacks are established, are networked, there's well-planned reconnaissance and logistics and financial support. It can only be from a group that is receiving international support, obviously with a domestic dimension.
BLACK: 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 an aim, 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 responsibility, the little known Deccan Mujahedeen, but security experts don't believe it.
WILL GEDDES, SECURITY ANALYST: The Deccan Mujahedeen seemed to be this amazing group that has come out of nowhere, that has been operating under the radar all of this time, yet able to mount such a sophisticated and well coordinated attack.
BLACK: Analysts believe it is more likely to work of another well-established outfit like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan based Islamic militants who oppose Indian control in the disputed area of Kashmir. The spokesman for Lashkar-e-Taiba says the group wasn't involved in the attacks in Mumbai and condemn them.
But the Indian authorities have blamed Lashkar for previous attacks like the 2001 assault on 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 succeeded.
VIJAY DUTT, HINDUSTAN TIMES: This attack in India has created a backlash which is equal to that of America after 9/11.
BLACK: The investigation may have only just begun, but already the fingers are pointing across the border to militants in Pakistan. Phil Black, CNN, London.
PHILLIPS: The sites and sounds that have rocked Mumbai. Flash bangs, explosions, gunfire and screams. We'll have another listen to the sounds of the siege.
PHILLIPS: Fifty plus hours of chaos, terror and lingering uncertainty filling the streets of Mumbai, India since Wednesday night. We can't take you through that ordeal minute by minute, but can give you a taste of what it's been like.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carefully executed is probably the best way to put it. And also, they obviously planned this out. They obviously thought this through all the way down to the food they might need to keep themselves able to sustain long hours and dealing with this.
OK, all right, we're, another loud bang you heard there. Now if you listen, probably in the next few minutes, there will be a succession of gun shots. All right, the journalists are now moving back. This is getting really serious and it's getting too close for comfort.
Let me just mention this to you, Carol and Joe. We have been allowed to get so incredibly close to this building, something you would never see in the United States or the U.K. for example or anywhere in Europe.
You would never see people this close. In fact, in most instances, authorities would pull you back so far that you wouldn't even be able to see the hotel itself. But for some reason, authorities have let us creep up closer and now we have to do what is right and what makes sense to keep everybody safe. But it is an odd situation because for a while there, I even last night, walked almost into the front lobby of the hotel with no one stopping me. They obviously saw that I was a journalist. They obviously saw I'd been standing here for 24 hours.
PHILLIPS: Images of terror in Mumbai. We want to close this hour with just a few of the scary photos that we've been getting from the "Associated Press." This is an Indian commando actually being lowered into the roof of the Chabad House, where terrorists fought to death taking hostages with them.
Here we see troops from India's antiterror squad, hunkered down outside the Taj Mahal Hotel. At last word, one or more gunmen still holed up inside.
The siege is over at the Hotel Oberoi. The surviving hostages rescued. This guest is being helped to safety by hotel staff.
And a group in New Delhi held a candlelight march and vigil for Mumbai victims. And India's prime minister visited some of the casualties in a Mumbai hospital.
We sure hope you have a great weekend. I'll see you back here on Monday. T.J. Holmes takes it from here.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And good afternoon, everybody. T.J. Holmes here in the CNN NEWSROOM sitting in today for Rick Sanchez. We will continue to follow the developments out of Mumbai and the terror attacks that are still gripping that city right now.