Hotel or terror museum? | india | Hindustan Times
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Hotel or terror museum?

After battling four terrorists for 60 excruciating hours, security forces finally killed them and rescued the last of those trapped inside the ravaged Taj Mahal & Palace Hotel, report Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit & Urvi Mahajani.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2008 01:29 IST

After battling four terrorists for 60 excruciating hours, security forces finally killed them and rescued the last of those trapped inside the ravaged Taj Mahal & Palace Hotel. But the toll was heavy, with at least 22 people killed in the attack.

The bodies of three terrorists were found in the morning while the fourth was recovered in the afternoon with an AK-47, when commandos were sanitising the hotel and looking for booby traps. The Guards tried their best to capture the terrorists alive but the intensity of the gun battle left them with no option but to finish them.

“We gave them a chance to surrender,” said J.K. Dutt, director general, NSG, on Saturday evening, about the four terrorists killed at the hotel. “If they had a commitment our commandos also had a noble cause.”

Dutt said the process of declaring the premises safe, i.e. checking each room for explosives or suspicious objects, would be completed late in the night after which the hotel would be handed over to the state government authorities.

One hotel employee was rescued on Saturday morning and 22 bodies were recovered until the end of the day. Seven to eight NSG commandos were injured.

“It looked like they had been killed much earlier. We are still checking all the rooms,” said Dutt. “We do not know, yet, if there more bodies.”

After the siege ended at 7.30 am, the commandos tried to catch their breath, but people mobbed them to shake hands, say thank you and ask for autographs. Many wanted photographs with the commandos and the latter, though weary, happily obliged.

Among them was Eijaz Qureishi, who does not remember when he last visited the Gateway of India or even noticed the Taj Mahal Hotel Palace and Towers. But on Saturday, the Kurla-resident and a friend paid a visit to see what the 60-hour gun battle between terrorists and security forces had done to the city’s landmark building.

Instead of the fluttering of pigeons, a common site outside Taj, there were dead birds and shards of glass strewn all over. The magnificent heritage structure was charred beyond recognition at several places.

Many people wanted to take pictures of the hotel from every angle and were looking for any sign of the ordeal that they could capture.

Among the favourites were the charred windows of the ballroom on the first floor and the long rope made from bed sheets hanging from a window by the poolside, indicating it was used to escape.

The poolside clock, though, had survived the carnage. It showed the accurate time.