Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Terror in India: The Threat Now; 'Brutal Murder' of Rabbi & Wife; British Agents Sent to Mumbai to Investigate
Aired November 28, 2008 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, we're following the breaking news. It continues, a terrorist massacre. Commandos in India still hunting for one gunman, maybe more. The danger and the fear in Mumbai still very real right now. Bodies and blood said to be everywhere.
Americans clearly targeted for death. U.S. citizens and other westerners gunned down. Their tragic stories coming up.
And the horror of those who managed to escape living hell in luxury hotels.
And they were well armed and certainly well trained. They planned their brazen series of attacks very carefully. Could al Qaeda be responsible? We're getting brand new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The breaking news in Mumbai, India, right now, commandos are working around the clock to try to secure the landmark Taj Mahal hotel. At least one gunman reportedly still holding out there after a team of terrorists launched a series of brutal attacks across the city.
The death toll now up to 160, including at least four Americans. More than 300 people are wounded.
Among the dead, a Virginia man and his 13-year-old daughter visiting Mumbai with their meditation group. Also, a rabbi raised in Brooklyn. He and his wife were found dead inside a Jewish center in Mumbai, along with three others. We're told their toddler son managed to escape with a center employee.
Hundreds of westerners fled or were rescued from the scenes of carnage after almost two days under siege and in shock.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICIA SCOTT, AMERICAN SURVIVOR: We came down the stairs with an Australian man and a South African man and a Chinese man, and the two of us as Americans, and it was dark and there was blood all over the steps. Thank God they took the bodies away because it would have been so hard.
And everybody grabbed hands. And there was a woman's heel. And we were just standing there, and you knew the people died before as we were walking out. So we are so grateful that the Passage of India tour group came through and helped us every hour, every step of the way, that the commandos were so powerful.
We felt so protected. They did such a phenomenal job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's get an update right now from the scene on this commando operation that's still unfolding. There's certainly lots of danger on the scene as well, especially in or near the Taj Mahal hotel.
CNN's Matthew Chance is joining us on the phone now from Mumbai with the latest.
What is the latest, Matthew?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you say, a lot of danger, a lot of tension as well. We've been hearing sporadic gunshots and explosions still coming from that landmark Taj Mahal Intercontinental Hotel. I'm standing at that site now. It's pretty quiet at the moment, but the operations to clear the area of any terrorists inside is still very much under way.
A bit of confusion about how many people there are inside. All day we've been working under the impression that there's one person up there, one militant up there, possibly holding people hostage. The authorities, the security forces going door to door, conducting close searches to try and find out where the hostages are being kept, try and find out how many militants are in there.
Temperatures rising in Mumbai, of course, as people get increasingly frustrated about how long this operation has taken to bring to an end. It's been well over 48 hours now since these series of coordinated attacks began -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Matthew, this is a huge city, Mumbai. It's equivalent to New York City in terms of the commercial center of the India.
Set the scene for us where you are. Has the city basically come to a halt?
CHANCE: Yes. I mean, it's a city of 20 million people. And it's a huge metropolis. India's financial capital absolutely teeming with people.
But this evening on the streets it's absolutely quiet. There aren't any cars. People are not really milling around in the same way that they ordinarily do.
That's been true throughout the day as well. People are basically keeping off the streets, they're so shocked about what's happened to them.
And this is a city, of course, that has had its fair share of terrorist attacks in the past, and ethnic kind of violence as well, and religious violence. But even so, the scale of these nine coordinated attacks that really ravaged this Indian economic hub has really shocked the residents of the city -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm not surprised at all. This is awful, obviously. Stand by, Matthew, because I want to go to another scene, one of those 10 sites attacked in Mumbai. And that was a Jewish center run by an Orthodox rabbi born in Israel, raised in New York City.
He and his wife among five people found dead inside the Chabad House. Their killing being called cold-blooded murder.
Our Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson is there in Mumbai with more on this part of the story.
What do we know, Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we spent the day outside the Chabad House. The day began with commandos being airdropped, Indian commandos airdropped onto the roof of that five- story building.
It's a densely-packed neighborhood. We could hear explosions, gunshots ringing throughout the day. But just about an hour before dusk, that's when the activity got really intense.
There was a huge explosion with a big flash, bigger than anything we've seen there. According to residents, it blew a back section of the wall. We saw a lot more commandos gather on the roof, haul up heavy equipment, then they repelled with their ropes down the outside of the building, in through the hole in that building.
That's when local residents thought that the situation was coming to a conclusion. There was a lot more gunfire, intense gunfire, then it went quiet.
Local residents began cheering, came out on the streets, and then the police came out and told them to get back in, that the situation wasn't clear, wasn't over. About an hour later, more explosions, more gunfire, and then the news that Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife and three others found dead inside the building.
It's understood that two gunmen inside the building were also killed. A number of police and commandos injured in the operation, as well. But by the end of the standoff, though, people were out on the streets.
And there's a real sense out on the streets there, Wolf, a sense of sadness that the rabbi and his family, their family have died, a sense of success that Indian commandos were able to take control of the situation, and a real sense of anger against Pakistan. Many people around there blaming Pakistan in a way without any evidence presented to us, but blaming Pakistan for having a role, an involvement in this situation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And Pakistani officials are strongly denying it. We're going to be speaking with the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Nic. That's coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. But there is a history, as all of us know, of tension between India and Pakistan. And as a result, the Indians, what you're saying is, almost naturally blaming Pakistan for this?
ROBERTSON: There's an attempt here in rather short time, if you will, to look -- to place the blame perhaps beyond their own shores and perhaps beyond the responsibility of the security forces who may have -- or perhaps should have seen this coming. A lot of people we talked to today are shocked and worried that their security forces didn't see this coming.
India and Pakistan have been talking more and more recently. They've been growing closer recently. And one of the things at stake for the Indian government at the moment is, how much will it try and play off this nationalist feeling that Pakistan may or may not have had a role in this against what they will stand to lose politically by improving relations with Pakistan at the moment?
There certainly doesn't appear to be the sense that this is a state- sponsored action by Pakistan. More of the elements within its intelligence services, rogue elements of the ISI, may in some way have aided and abetted some elements that have supported the terrorist operations here. But it's a very big political juggling act for the government here in India. And a lot at stake.
Do they throw all this good forward momentum that they've made with the Pakistani government recently, do they throw that all up in the air to play to nationalist sentiment? Or do they really try to get to the bottom of it and find out exactly who was responsible, where they came from and who was behind them?
BLITZER: I suspect both India and Pakistan will be looking to the United states for help on this front. We have more on that part of the story coming up as well.
Nic, I want you to stand by. You're on the scene, but I want to go to Brooklyn right now, where Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife are being warmly remembered for their goodness and their kindness cut short by brutality and hatred.
CNN's Mary Snow is in Brooklyn with the reaction there.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, seen here two years in Mumbai, saying anyone who comes here is welcome. Before they lived in India, the Holtzbergs lived in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which is home to the headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch Jewish sect which they belong to. Today some in the community struggled for words to express their pain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to miss him very dearly. He was a very, very special person, him and his wife. Very, very special people. SNOW: The Lubavitch movement calls for its members to act as emissaries around the world. And friends say Rabbi Holtzberg, just 29, and his wife Rivka, 28, were known for acting as hosts to travelers in India.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether it was an Israeli backpacker or an American businessman, or the local Indian Jew from the Jewish community, everyone felt as their home was open that, that it was a beacon of light, of friendship inside Mumbai.
SNOW: On Wednesday, after news that the Holtzbergs' Chabad House had been attacked by terrorists, members of the community formed a crisis center trying to get whatever information possible and decipher fact from rumor. Community leaders say Rabbi Holtzberg was last heard from Wednesday night when he called the Israeli Consulate. Leaders here say a nanny was able to be escape with the Holtzbergs' toddler, who is safe with other family members now.
Friends coming to grips with the tragedy say they look to their friend, Rabbi Holtzberg, now.
RABBI YITZCHOK ITKIN, FRIEND OF RABBI HOLTZBERG: He had a zest for life, a positive energy about him, always a twinkle in his eye. And I think he would want to us do the same, not just to mourn his life, but to celebrate, and do as he did. He lived his life for others.
SNOW: And Wolf, Rabbi Holtzberg moved here to Crown Heights when he was 9 years old from Israel. He became an American citizen. He married an Israeli woman, and he left for India back in 2003.
I just spoke with a family member who says the family obviously is just heartbroken. And I asked him if he had a message that he wanted to convey. And he asked that people do a positive deed, do good work and try to concentrate on the positive. He said family members have left to go to Israel -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Mary.
Mary Snow is in Brooklyn watching this story for us.
All right. There are new developments coming in right now. Paula Newton is getting information in London. That's where she's speaking to a wide range of sources.
What are we picking up right now, Paula?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Been a confusing day here, Wolf, for British authorities looking into whether or not any of those terrorists were British.
What we can tell you now is that security sources tell CNN that MI-5 -- and that is the equivalent of the FBI here in Britain -- is investigating two of the dead terrorists. The reason is that Indian authorities tell them they were holding British ID. And that's where the confusion comes.
Scotland Yard is saying, really, in this investigation would tell you, look, it doesn't mean that they're British citizens. They may have had a bank card, a student card, something that ties them to Britain.
What they're doing now is they're trying to meticulously go through the identity of these people, then perform some background checks. But they are on the scene now in Mumbai trying to figure out if those two dead terrorists are in fact British, or if they just have some kind of British connection, or if they were holding fake documents -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And any indications whatsoever -- because I know you're well plugged into the counterterrorist community over there, the intelligence community -- Paula, on a broader responsibility? Because a lot of fingers are pointing at al Qaeda, among others.
NEWTON: I can tell you, Wolf, and we go through you this day in, day out here, because we have a very large Pakistani and Indian community, that the strongest leads to go on right now would be a Kashmiri connection. That doesn't mean there is a Kashmiri connection. It's just that authorities here are making it their best bet.
Again, that Kashmiri dispute really has a lot of different influence here in Britain. Britain has a lot of different influence there.
Have I sat in many courtrooms and heard how British citizens have been convicted of funneling arms, money and other resources to Kashmiri militants. It's not like this is anything new here. That is a line of investigation that Scotland Yard and the security and intelligence people here say is most likely. But look, anything here can be a game-changer. We have not seen this kind of attack before.
BLITZER: All right, Paula. I want you to stand by, as well.
The Bush administration, meanwhile, says it's working as hard as it possibly can with the Indian government to try to find out who's responsible for this terror attack in Mumbai. The FBI is now joining the investigation.
Here's the question we've been asking. Could there be an al Qaeda connection?
Our Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena is working this part of the story.
You've got excellent sources throughout Washington, Kelli. What are you picking up?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the FBI has officially opened a case into the Mumbai attacks which killed at least four U.S. citizens. Officials say that a team of FBI agents is prepared to fly to Mumbai made up of negotiators, forensic specialists and interrogation experts. American officials are working out the final details at this time with Indian diplomats.
ARENA (voice-over): It is still not clear exactly who is responsible for the attacks in Mumbai. Counterterrorism officials say investigators are still looking closely at extremist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, or LET, made up of Pakistani militants who have fought Indian troops in Kashmir. Intelligence sources say the group's fighters have been sighted in the Pakistan border region and the U.S. believes some have attended al Qaeda training camps there.
PAT D'AMURO, FMR. FBI COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Somewhere between 15,000 to 20,000 individuals went through those training camps. And that may be a conservative figure. They trained on these types of events. They trained on urban assaults, they trained on attacking vehicles, they trained in taking hostages.
ARENA: Far different from many of the suicide attacks and vehicle bombings we've seen recently, these terrorist terrorists came in guns blazing. Experts say the coordination of the attack, hitting at least nine sites, and the specific targeting of westerners signals a broader new radical Islamic agenda in the region and warned the U.S. could face a similar attack.
HAROLD COPUS, FMR. FBI AGENT: We've always thought that in the past, that the terrorists, when they hit the United States, would hit targets that were high profile. What that now means is they could hit any building in any city in the United States, go in that building and get as high up as they can, and then take their hostages and have a standoff.
ARENA: The FBI sent out a bulletin late Thursday night to its law enforcement partners citing the Mumbai attacks and urging them to remain vigilant "... during this period of heightened alert as the United States conducts the transition to the new administration."
ARENA: Now, while the FBI has opened a case into the Mumbai attacks, it is not clear what they'll be allowed to do on the ground if they're allowed in. The Indian government is in charge of granting any and all access -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And what are they saying, Kelli? Do they expect any problems in getting these FBI experts in there?
ARENA: Well, I mean, negotiations are ongoing. It is expected that they will eventually get on site. But again, you know, in terms of who they'll be allowed to interrogate, what they'll be allowed to do in terms of investigation and evidence collecting, very unclear, Wolf. It really varies country by country, situation by situation. It is a delicate dance that happens each and every time the FBI goes into another country.
BLITZER: Kelli, thank you very much.
Some survivors of the terror attack in India say they've now seen the face of evil. We're going to be hearing from a man who lived to tell his story and to vow that the terrorists will not win.
Plus, a reporter's firsthand account of the rampage and the rescue efforts. He was on hand when commandos stormed the Jewish center in Mumbai under siege.
And tracking the terrorists and possible ties to al Qaeda. We're going to get more of the clues left behind from CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Pictures coming in from The Associated Press from Mumbai today. The hotel staff of the Oberoi hotel escorting one of their guests after being rescued.
In the midst of the terror and chaos in Mumbai, "The New York Times" correspondent Keith Bradsher sent updates from his own BlackBerry. He watched as the commandos stormed the Jewish center, under siege by terrorists.
Keith Bradsher is joining us on the phone right now from Mumbai.
Keith, what was it like? Or what did you see?
KEITH BRADSHER, "NEW YORK TIMES" CORRESPONDENT: We had more than 10 hours of fighting between the commandos and the attackers inside the Nariman House, as it's known. It's a narrow five-story apartment building, and while the commandos were able to lower themselves onto the rooftop from helicopters, they tried again and again and again to get into the center of the building and kept being driven back by heavy automatic weapons fire and grenades from the -- from terrorists inside the building.
The commandos were restricted in what they could do by their concerns for the safety of the rabbi and his wife who lived there. And this evening, there's been the sad news that in fact, the rabbi and his wife did die at some point in those long hours of fighting.
BLITZER: Did this commando operation seem well organized, highly professional? What was your sense?
BRADSHER: It was an energetic effort to try to dislodge what seemed to be extremely well-prepared, well-armed terrorists. It was extraordinary just how well barricaded in they seemed to be. And the options for the -- for the Indian army were somewhat limited by their reluctance to use methods that would put the hostages at risk.
Now, in the end, they did use fairly drastic methods. They ended up blowing out a large part of the middle of the building with a very powerful explosive. It's not known when the hostages died and whether the Indians may have decided to use those explosives only after this concluding -- and perhaps they were using sound gathering equipment, we don't know -- but one way or another, they may have already concluded the hostages were dead. At any rate, after I would say about eight hour into the fight, they finally used this very powerful explosive that didn't just blow out the windows, but appeared to damage the building and gutted the middle of the building. There was still, however, even after that, there was still some resistance.
BLITZER: So you got the sense that these terrorists holed up inside, they were well armed and clearly well organized. They knew what they were doing. Is that right?
BRADSHER: They knew exactly what they were doing, it seemed, on every occasion. In fact, the Indians had to bring in a second team of commandos as the first team of commandos seemed to be worn out from having been fighting for eight or 10 hours.
The number of explosions along the way was impressive. These were clearly terrorists who had brought large numbers of grenades with them, in addition to a lot of ammunition in order to be able to keep up the fire over the course of whatever it was, 10 hours.
Now, we're not in any way talking about a firefight over the whole 10 hours. The Indians kept withdrawing and waiting up to an hour or so as they tried to figure out what to do next, and kept trying various approaches. But nothing -- none of the surrounding windows from adjacent buildings where they had snipers were really giving them a good view.
One of the problems was that the terrorists very shrewdly holed themselves up on what appeared to be the second and third floors of a five-story building. That meant you couldn't come at them at ground level easily. And because the -- it was attached to another building, and then there were narrow alleys, you couldn't really shoot down into their windows from adjacent buildings.
So even though you had these snipers on top of the adjacent buildings, which were also about five stories tall, they didn't really have an angle. You just sort of -- if you would be looking down, you'd be looking down almost vertically through the second and third floor windows. And just figuring out how to get at that building -- it didn't have that many windows -- was a very tough challenge.
It looked like the terrorists had thought this through very carefully in advance. They knew exactly where they wanted to be. They probably had time to booby-trap the place as well to make it more difficult to storm, and they just were very well prepared.
BLITZER: And that Jewish center only one of about 10 sites that these terrorists had attacked and targeted.
All right. Keith Bradsher of "The New York Times."
Be careful over there. We'll stay in close touch with you as well. Thank you very much.
Most of the chaos and the carnage appears to be ending, but the search for those who cause this has only just begun. You're going to want to hear who might have plunged an entire city into a nightmarish hell.
And what's the mood like right now in Mumbai? We're going to go back to the scene. We'll go there live for more on that's going on.
Stay with us. This crisis by no means over.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, an unimaginable hell. That's how many survivors of the terror attack in India are describing the ordeal in Mumbai. You're going to want to hear just how some of them were able to escape from being killed.
Also, with top luxury hotels attacked by the gunmen, how safe might you be staying at similar hotels when you travel abroad?
And the terrorists stormed into the city via boats from the sea. What's the chance of terror coming to American cities via U.S. waterways? We're looking at that part of the story from one big U.S. city, New Orleans.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We have the latest on the terror unfolding in Mumbai. This story by no means going away.
The death and the bloodshed may not be over, as police say one gunman, at least one gunman, perhaps more, are still holed up in the Taj Mahal hotel. Operations there are continuing.
As of right now, at least 160 people are dead in the attacks, including five Americans. Two of them, a father and a daughter from Virginia visiting Mumbai with a meditation group. The others, an American rabbi found dead with his wife and three others inside a Jewish center in Mumbai, another American from Brooklyn, New York, and an Israeli with dual U.S./Israeli citizenship.
Once again, we're covering this story from all angles. It's not going away.
We want to alert our viewers in the United States and around the world, we will have continuing coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There are numerous harrowing stories from many survivors who were first trapped in their hotels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE SCOTT, SURVIVED MUMBAI TERRORIST ATTACK: We heard some noise outside. We didn't see or hear anybody. We didn't see terrorists. But, when I looked through, I saw what looked like police. They were wearing armor and -- body armor. They had weapons.
So, I kind of tapped on the door and made a little, "Hello, I'm in here." I was afraid, if I ran out in the hall, I might -- they might think I was a bad guy. So, we were very careful about that. They came in. They checked our credentials. They looked at our passports. They made sure the room was clean. And they brought us out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The nightmare that unfolded at the Oberoi Hotel is now over, but the survivors' trauma only just beginning.
One survivor, a guest at the Oberoi, told CNN's Tony Harris how he first learned the hotel was under siege and the horror that unfolded afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN EHRLICH, TAJ HOTEL ATTACK SURVIVOR: I fell asleep relatively quickly. I was a bit jet-lagged.
And about an hour later, there was a knock at my door and then the doorbell rang and I thought to myself, who could this be? I mean the only person I really knew in the hotel was Alex. And I knew he was in the bar. And there's no way it was the hotel staff this late with the turndown service. So I stayed in bed and then didn't get up, didn't say a word. And then five minutes later, that chaos started and the bombs wept off.
And I learned a couple hours later at the airport that the terrorists had first gone to reception and got the photocopies of people's passports and were looking for westerners in their rooms. And Ehrlich with an e in room 1820 I'm assuming was one of their first stops. So I didn't get out of bed and I'm still here.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Jonathan, how harrowing. If you would, describe the trip from getting from your floor, I believe it was the 18th floor.
EHRLICH: That's right.
HARRIS: Into the lobby. Describe that for us. EHRLICH: Well, I mean, the first bomb went off and I got out of bed and I wasn't really sure what was going on. So I went to the window. And justify as I got to the window, a huge puff of gray smoke was coming up towards me. And I knew something was wrong. And I started to make my way out into the hotel floor. And another bomb went off.
And this time I knew for sure something was really bad. I knew it was an attack. The whole hotel shook. And so I quickly went into the hall and I heard them say bomb. And as soon as I heard those words, it was like an explosion in my chest. It took me by -- took me hold and adrenaline just started to pump through my body. I went back into my room. I threw my clothes into my a bag. I ran out into the hallway. I ran down 18 flights of stairs as fast as I have ever run anything in my whole life. And on the way down I actually called a colleague of mine to get me on a flight out. I got to the lobby. And when I got to the lobby there -- I was sort of on the inside of the lobby and there was a whole bunch of people sort of milling around. And I couldn't understand why people were just sitting there. There was no hotel staff. No security. No police. And I honestly felt like a sitting duck.
So I made my way from sort of the bowels of the hotel into the lobby. I took a couple of steps with another woman. And I saw, you know, blood on the floor and broken glass and, again, that was not the place you wanted to be.
So I turned around. Went back into sort of the bowels of the hotel. People were just standing there and I said, guys, we've got to get out of there. And I just went to the exit. Ran to the basement. Ran out into the alley. And when I got to the alley, there was still no one there. It was probably 100 yards on either side before I saw people.
I saw a couple of security guards who then saw me. They were screaming at me to run. And I ran towards them and I came out and, I don't know if you've ever been to India, but I basically rounded the corner and then all of a sudden the massive sort of Indian people were there. There must have been 1,000 people on the street. And I just started screaming, "airport, airport." And one of the guys from the hotel, must have been a cook or something, basically grabbed me and my bag and threw me into a taxi and off I went to the airport.
HARRIS: Jonathan, now that you've had an opportunity to grasp the full scope and scale of this, what are your thoughts on just how fortunate you are to be here now?
EHRLICH: Well, you know, I was the luckiest man on earth before. And now I'm the double luckiest man on earth. I have been blessed since the day I was born with great family and great friends and fantastic kids and the best wife on earth. Today I feel incredibly lucky.
But you know what else, I feel very, very bad for the people in India. And if I could give one message to your audience, that they should go to their travel agent today and buy a ticket to Mumbai. These are incredible people who deserve our support. The people who did this have no soul. It doesn't matter whether you're Indian, whether you're Thai, whether you're Jewish, Christian, it doesn't matter. They just kill you because you represent everything that is good. So, please go. Please go. They need your support.
HARRIS: And you absolutely believe, and I read this in your note, that as to the character of these terrorists, that if you were there with your family, with your children, they would have shot you dead?
EHRLICH: There is no doubt. 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 would 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 theirs 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.
HARRIS: One other quick question, Jonathan. I know you're aware of the story of the Brooklyn rabbi and members, we believe, of his family who were killed at the Jewish Center there in Mumbai. And you just mentioned that you're Jewish. I wonder how it feels to be part of a group that was purposely targeted by these attackers, these terrorists?
EHRLICH: You know, there are a billion people in India and there are 10,000 Jews. It's kind of funny how they just manage to focus on the 10,000 Jews. Look, the sad truth of it is, is that, you know, Jews are a target everywhere because of who they are. That's been the way, for us, for a very long time, sadly.
And I certainly feel with -- feel terrible for the family. I feel very bad for the Jewish community at large. But we're tough. We can take it. And it's not going to change our behavior whatsoever. I can't wait for all the Israelis to buy their tickets. I'm sure they're doing that today to the many people out there who support Israeli and support the Jewish people, I'm sure they're all planning on buying their tickets. Or at least I hope so. We're going to pick ourselves up, clean ourselves off and go about our business because there's no way these guys are going to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Oh, what a courageous young man. We're going to speaking with him once again later. We will stay in touch with him.
CNN, as you know is, challenging its global resources -- channeling its global resources to bring you up to-the-minute coverage of the terror attacks in Mumbai, India. We're keeping very close watch on the operation unfolding right now inside the Taj Mahal -- Taj Mahal Hotel, where at least one gunman reportedly is holed up. We're going to stand by for a live report. Stand by with us.
Also, are al Qaeda's fingerprints on this massacre? There's a worldwide investigation that's been launched. Our terror analyst Peter Bergen is standing by live. He's going to help us sort through the various clues.
And a 13-year-old girl from Virginia who wanted to see the world with her dad, the story of their lives and their deaths in Mumbai.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. `
BLITZER: These photos coming in from the Associated Press right now.
An Indian commando comes down a rope outside the Chabad House, a Jewish center in Mumbai where militants were holed up.
And an army personal carrier, a grenade -- carrying a grenade launcher after using it on the face of the Taj Mahal Hotel earlier today.
Fifty-plus hours of chaos and terror, and the danger is by no means over yet.
Here's a sense of what people caught -- caught up in the middle of this deadly assault on Mumbai have been going through, including CNN correspondent Sara Sidner.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cleverly 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...
SIDNER: 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 -- of gunshots.
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 that 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 I was a journalist. They obviously saw I had been standing here for -- for 24 hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wow. What a -- what a scene earlier today. That's the Taj Mahal Hotel. And it's, by no means, over yet. You saw Sara Sidner's report.
We want to talk a little bit about who could have unleashed this daylong, days-long reign of terror in Mumbai.
Joining us now, our national security analyst, Peter Bergen.
Peter, you have had a chance to look at sort of the fingerprints, the modus operandi, of these terrorists, 10 separate sites that were attacked in Mumbai. You have seen the targets. What do you think?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, U.S. counterterrorism officials I speak -- spoken to suggest that this is beyond the capabilities of just local groups, that there was likely some outside help.
We have had the Indian government talk about external links, which is sort of code for some form of Pakistani involvement. We have seen Pakistani involvement in these attacks before. Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a group, carried out an attack with gunmen, effectively a suicide operation, in which many of those guys were killed, on the Indian parliament in December of 2001.
That's one avenue that people will be looking at. Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, by the way, has shared training camps with al Qaeda in the past. A second avenue, a U.S. counterterrorism official said that this is somewhat reminiscent of an attack in '93 which was allegedly organized by a guy called Dawood Ibrahim, who is now supposedly living in Karachi, Pakistan, a big-time local gangster who the U.S. government identifies as linked both to al Qaeda and to Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.
So, those are some of the people that people will be looking at because of their past activities already -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And you see -- and you see that, potentially, at least some of these counterterrorism analysts are saying there possibly could be a link between these groups and al Qaeda.
I was struck by the -- the fact that Mumbai is the commercial, the economic heart of India. And, in the past, as you well know, the World Trade Center in New York, al Qaeda, they have gone after these economic targets to try to undermine the West and the capitalist system, if you will.
Is -- is there -- am I going too far in seeing a sense that Mumbai might have been targeted, if in fact al Qaeda has a -- has a links to these terrorists?
BERGEN: Well, it's only been targeted -- the jury is out on the al Qaeda question, in terms of actual involvement.
Obviously, ideologically, this attack was very influenced by al Qaeda, multiple coordinated attacks, attacks on Britons, Americans, and Israeli and Jewish targets. But, you know, the Bombay Stock Exchange was targeted back in '93 by this Dawood Ibrahim gang, who, you know, the United States government says has some links to al Qaeda. So, they have -- they have attacked Bombay as a financial center before. But it is interesting, these attacks on these five-star hotels. We have seen a blizzard of these kinds of attacks around the world, at the Marriott, just recently, in Islamabad, attacks on American-owned hotels in Jordan in 2005, a J.W. Marriott in Indonesia in 2002, a Sheraton in Karachi the same year. And the list goes on.
So, one thing that we have seen a fair amount in the past and also we're likely, unfortunately, to see more in the future is these kinds of attacks on five-star or Western-owned hotels which are likely to house Western tourists. They're soft targets. They're in the hospitality business. By definition, they can't turn themselves into fortresses. So, that, unfortunately, is a pattern that we're likely to continue to see -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How worried, Peter, should we be that tensions between these two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, could rise dramatically, mis -- miscalculations, if you will? I'm hoping -- of course, everyone is hoping -- that cooler heads will prevail. But how worried should we be?
BERGEN: Well, I think cooler heads have perhaps already prevailed.
We know that the -- Pakistan's military intelligence chief has gone to India to be involved in the investigation. That's really historical, because, just a few months ago, both the Indian government and the CIA was saying that the Indian -- parts of the Pakistani military intelligence agency had been involved in attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing more than 40 people.
So, the fact that there is already this kind of dialogue between the Pakistani and Indian government in the middle of this very severe crisis is hopeful. Now, of course, if the situation changes, you know, if indeed there are a fair amount of Pakistani involvement on that, not on the governmental level, but just on the -- in terms of Pakistan terrorist groups, the Indian public may demand some sort of response from the government.
But, so far, we aren't seeing that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Peter, we're going to be talking to you more. Stand by.
Witnesses to death tell others about the nightmare that they will certainly never forget.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The three people that were injured and went to the hospital told us that they saw Alan take a bullet to the head and go down. They also told us that Naomi was also on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She's referring to the father and daughter from Virginia that were killed -- who were killed in Mumbai. We are going to have more on who they were, what they were doing there. Stand by. And how much of a role might the president-elect be able to play amid these attacks? We're looking at Barack Obama's reaction to be what's going on and what he might be able to do in the days ahead.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: As these terror attacks in India have played out, president- elect Barack Obama has been getting intelligence briefings from the Bush administration. The carnage is driving home the serious challenges that the president-elect will face during this time of transition, and certainly once he becomes president.
Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, he's in Chicago. He's covering the transition for us.
Ed, terrorism may be on the back-burner a little bit during the campaign, but certainly right on the front burner right now for this incoming president. What's the latest?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you're right. There's been a lot of focus lately on economic security. But Obama aides insist they have always believed national security also on that front-burner.
HENRY (voice-over): During the campaign, president-elect Barack Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, predicted he would face a major crisis soon after taking office.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama, like they did John Kennedy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HENRY: An unforeseen crisis in India has come even sooner. But Mr. Obama is not commander in chief yet. So, he's in an awkward position, deferring to President Bush and not being able to problem his own mettle.
PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Even though he's (AUDIO GAP)
HENRY: The president-elect has mostly been out of public view for the Thanksgiving holiday, but has privately stayed in the loop on the crisis, with two phone calls from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and regular updates from his own national security staff, all aimed at showing that, despite the recent focus on the financial crisis, Mr. Obama realizes vice president-elect Biden was probably right. At any time, a president can be tested by an international crisis, in India or any number of other countries. FENN: It shows that, you know, the issue of the relationship between India and Pakistan, but South Asia, the importance of al Qaeda, you know, that you cannot turn your head away for one moment.
HENRY: That's why Mr. Obama was already planning, next week, to roll out his national security team, with Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. She vowed, as a presidential candidate, to make rooting out terror in South Asia a top priority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 3, 2007)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Again, this is an area where I think the United States needs to be just focused like the proverbial laser.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, Senator Clinton, of course, also ran that 3:00 a.m. ad, charging, Barack Obama didn't have the experience to handle a late- night crisis. Now, potentially, as a secretary of state, she could be the one making that late-night call to Barack Obama as president, advising him on just how to deal with a tragedy like what is playing out in India right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed, stand by in Chicago.
President Bush is vowing to cooperate with Indian officials to try to track down those responsible for these terror attacks on Mumbai.
Brianna Keilar is over at the White House for us.
Brianna, the president is staying on top of what's going on from Camp David. What is the latest?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He's at Camp David, where he's been for the holiday break.
But he put out a statement this afternoon, after it became national that two Americans were among those killed in Mumbai. He said he was deeply saddened by the news. And he went on to say, "My administration has been working with the Indian government and international community, as Indian authorities work to ensure the safety of those still under threat."
He went on to say: "We will continue to cooperate against these extremists, who offer nothing but violence and hopelessness."
So, there is an offer of help out there on the table, whether it's for restoring order or Mumbai, or investigating the coordinated terrorist attacks, or really any way the U.S. can help. But, when it comes to the particulars of exactly what aid is being given to India from the U.S., if any, the White House remaining mum on that, Wolf.
There is a group of advisers from the Bush administration, intelligence officials, counterterrorism officials, the president's top national security advisers, as well as folks over at the State Department and the Defense Department, who are in what one senior administration official describes as frequent and constant contact.
And, of course, President Bush getting regular updates in person, in fact, Wolf, from Condoleezza Rice at Camp David.
BLITZER: Brianna, we're going to get back to you. Thank you.
Survivors describe what they saw. It wasn't pretty -- how they escaped being killed. You're going to hear their dramatic stories. That's coming up.
Police say terrorists came to Mumbai via boats. What's the chance of terror coming to American cities via U.S. waterways?
And a huge, huge financial hub -- we're going to take a closer look at all of the U.S. businesses with ties to Mumbai. And there are many.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. `
BLITZER: Pictures coming in from the Associated Press of the scene, the horrible scene in Mumbai. A guest at the Oberoi hotel wipes away her tears after being rescued.
I don't think we have that picture, but we will get it for you and we will show it to you once we do.
We're going to have more of the breaking news coming out of India in just a moment.
But, first, Isha Sesay is standing by. She's monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Isha, what's going on?
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one day after Thanksgiving, investors have another thing to be thankful for. Wall Street sees one of its best weeks in months. Today, stocks rallied in an abbreviated holiday session. The Dow and S&P 500 ended higher for the fifth straight session. The Dow rose 102 points, closing at just over 8800. And the broader S&P 500 index advanced almost 1 percent, to just over 896.
Well, Black Friday has turned into a day for deals and deaths. A worker at a New York-area Wal-Mart was knocked down and trampled to death by mobs of shoppers eager for deals. The shopper stampede left at least four others hurt on Long Island. Witnesses describe a chaotic scene of shoppers literally snatching the store's doors off the hinges. Wal-Mart calls the incident tragic.
And one day after a plane owned by Air New Zealand crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, a French official says the flight recorders have been located. The Airbus A-320 passenger jet was leased to a German charter airline, and it was on a training flight to Germany when it went down off France's southern coast. Two people died. Five others are still missing.
And, Wolf, I can tell you that weather is causing huge problems for this operation -- back to you.
BLITZER: We will stand by with you. Isha, we're going to get back to you. Thank you.