The men they took on at the two besieged Mumbai hotels — the Taj and the Trident — weren’t just terrorists, they fought like army regulars and even trained commandos, said some of the people involved in the operations at the luxury hotels.
They told the Hindustan Times over the phone that they had a strong feeling they were up against very well-trained men, adept at warfare tactics and movements. “Their training is excellent; they were behaving the way Indian commandos would have, if they were playing terrorists in Pakistan,” they said over the telephone. These people can’t be identified as they aren’t authorised to speak to the media.
“At times, we found them matching us in combat and movement; it was their high degree of training which was prolonging the operation every hour. They’re either army regulars or have done a long stint of commando training,” they said.
A little hesitant in labelling them ‘militants’, the sources said the men knew the Taj like the back of their hand. They had taken positions at strategic places when the hotel was stormed, even succeeded in hitting and injuring two commandos and “didn’t allow the teams to move for two to three hours, using grenades in best possible fashion at around 6.30 am on Thursday”.
The teams retaliated, pushing them back to take upper floors. First they entered the kitchen where they saw bodies. “There were around 50 bodies, almost heaped over each other; there were no survivors,” they said. The forces then shifted focus to the close circuit television monitor room to ascertain the positions of hostage-takers. The move, however, had been pre-empted — the room had been burnt down.
The security teams then slowly moved to Chamber Hall on the second floor and found nearly 200 people held hostage. There were three armed men pacing the floor, with exits points under their control.
Soon, a fierce battle started. After four-five hours of exchange of fire, the terrorists made a hasty retreat through a hidden door, which the security teams didn’t even know existed. Of the 200 hostages, 125 were foreigners who just couldn’t stop thanking the forces. It was in this hall that the credits cards, AK magazines, an identity card issued in Mauritius and some China-made grenades were recovered.
The terrorists had a distinct advantage “because of their better knowledge of the topography”, the sources said.