77 survivors of Mumbai attacks arrive in Paris
1 December 2008
Paris – Some 77 people from nearly a dozen countries who escaped the attacks in Mumbai arrived in Paris from India on Saturday with tales of confusion and fear in the Indian city hit by Islamic militants.
Among the passengers was a French woman with a broken arm, who was taken to hospital, while an Italian man suffered from a bout of phlebitis and was treated at the airport, officials said.
Four other passengers were in a state of shock, they added.
Phillippe Meyer, who had been on a business trip to Mumbai, said he was stuck in one of the hotels targeted by militants, who launched their coordinated attacks on Thursday.
"We found ourselves shut away in our rooms for a very long time, about 40 hours. The information was very confusing," said Meyer, 53.
A 29-year-old French woman who had been on vacation in India said she was relieved to be back home.
"I’m fine, but some people were not as lucky. At the time, we didn’t realise it," said Fazia, who stayed at the Ritz hotel, near the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel that was a key target of the attacks that claimed 195 lives.
"We left (our hotel) to join some friends at a club, and people told us there was gunfire. So we quickly turned around and stayed in our hotel."
Other passengers on the plane chartered by France were too upset to speak to journalists. "It is too hard. Please, leave me alone," said one woman in tears.
The nationalities of the passengers on the Airbus A310 included 29 French nationals, 19 Italians, 17 Spaniards, five Germans, and one each from Poland, Kazakhstan, Greece, Switzerland, Algeria, Congo and the Netherlands. Four of them were members of the European Parliament.
The overall toll was 172 people dead and nearly 293 wounded. About 30 foreigners were killed including five Americans, two French, two Australians and two Canadians.
Around a dozen militants launched their assault on Wednesday evening when they split into groups and struck targets across Mumbai, including the main railway station and a hospital.
Security forces regained control of the city 60 hours later when they killed the last three gunmen holed up inside the Taj Mahal hotel.
India’s security chief said commandos had rescued a total of 610 people from the locations under attack.
India’s interior minister resigns
India’s interior minister resigned Sunday as anger grew over intelligence failures leading up to the devastating attacks on Mumbai, as the government mulled suspending a peace process with Pakistan.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil said he took "moral responsibility" for the assault by heavily-armed Islamic militants which left nearly at least 172 people dead and transformed parts of Mumbai into a war zone for three days.
Officials said India’s powerful national security adviser M.K. Narayanan had also submitted his resignation but it was not clear if it had been accepted.
The government has pointed the finger at "elements in Pakistan," and security sources say they believe most if not all the highly-trained gunmen were Pakistani. The nuclear-armed neighbours’ peace process now appears in doubt.
"There is a view in the government that India should suspend the peace process… to show that it is not going to take lightly the deadly carnage in Mumbai," the official Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.
It quoted sources as saying the government, "including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is very upset as it feels that Pakistan has not kept its promise made at the highest level to end terrorism directed at India".
Security officials said they believed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the extremely well-planned assault, which took thousands of India commandos, police and soldiers 60 hours to stop.
Lashkar, which is fighting Indian control of the disputed Kashmir region, was behind a deadly 2001 assault on the Indian parliament that pushed New Delhi and Islamabad to the brink of war.
But Pakistan, which has fought two wars with India over Kashmir, moved quickly to deny any links with the attacks. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari urged India not to "over-react."
Zardari warned that the militants were "looking for reaction," and pledged prompt action against anyone responsible.
Lashkar, which operated openly in Pakistan until it was outlawed after the 11 September 2001 attacks, has denied responsibility.
[AFP / Expatica]