I borrowed the title from the news - but it feels kind of true. I have got many worrying emails; I thank all of those who wrote me, and yes, I am all right. I live further from south-Mumbai, where the actual attack took place. As a matter of fact, it is STILL going on, more than 51-hours after its start.
I do not know the situation now, but yesterday all day, and the night before that, the regular forces of police, army, navy, and anti-terrorist commandos seemed to work in total chaos. For about 46-hours in the news the head officers of the joint forces were keep saying that the final assault of the anti-terrorist forces is taking place, and it is matter of an hour or maybe two to exterminate those terrorists holed in two hotels and a Jewish building. With my own eyes I have seen at least four times it to be stated that all hostages are secured and safe. Yet, it turned out that even now there are hostages kept by terrorist. They do not know even the approximate number neither the hostages, nor the terrorists. Just an hour ago they said that there is only one -injured- terrorist left in Taj Hotel. A few minutes ago I got the news that commandos encountered unexpected heavy firing and blasts, and there must be more than one terrorist hidden; they number is unknown.
The whole story has started the night before last day. At 9.20PM young (around 20yrs old) men stranded on the shore of Arabian sea. They were extremely well equipped with machine guns, GPS, infra cameras, food, explosives, and loads of spare bullets and grenades. They divided into subgroups, and almost simultaneously they attacked the two most luxurious hotels of Mumbai, Taj and Trident, a popular cafe, hospital(s), metro, and the incredibly busy central railway station (CST).
My colleagues work in Colaba, i.e., where all these targets are. They called me there for this week, but I felt lazy, so, I postponed it. Choices... They had some work to do, so one of them wanted to continue it just for one more hour; but the other was tired and they left home. They went to CST and took their train to home. Just one hour after my colleagues left CST, one of the terrorist subgroups reached the station -choices...
They pulled AK47s and started shooting people indifferently. Some police officers tried to stop them: they did not stand a chance with their light hand pistols against the machine guns. Among others the head officer of the central railway police were shot dead; Among 50 others... The dispatcher's office is at a top place in the station, and he saw the entering terrorists when they started to throw some grenades and pull their machine guns. He immediately started to shout in the megaphone, that everybody standing around the side terminals should immediately leave the station, while those close by some train, must stay inside-, or rush into the carriages, and hide under the seats. Of course, the terrorists themselves heard the warning, too, so they put heavy fire on the office that was totally destroyed. Nevertheless, the dispatcher were keep repeating his warning in the microphone, hiding somewhere from the hitting bullets, until the firing ceased, because the encounter with the lightly armed but persistent policemen forced the terrorists to make their move to the metro. They did not have much time going after many hiding passengers and the alarming dispatcher. Then they took their way to the metro station (or to a hospital first - I am not sure). Already by that time the Mumbai anti-terrorist force was alarmed. They run after them down to the metro; but it seems they underestimated the terrorists. They might thought it was just some young unorganized gang. So, some of them were reluctant wearing even the bullet-proof jackets. Many were shot dead right there. Among others the head of the anti-terrorist group himself.
Similar scenes at all the other 9 points of the attack. The first wave of security forces could not damage them. However, the reply of those first inadequately armed police forces were so prompt, that the terrorists had to change their original plan. They did not have time to place their explosives under Taj, for instance, that alone saved God knows how many lives. Was it a bold or brave move from the police and the anti-terrorist group I cannot say. Certainly it caused large loss in police personnel, including several head officers, and, on the other hand, saved at least several hundred of civilian lives.
Ironic: about 20 days ago the CIA warned the Indian Intelligent Agency that some attack is under preparation against the Taj. They had strengthen the security around the hotel, but some days ago they have removed the personnel...
So, according their very accurate plan, the terrorists without any major loss took their positions at Taj, Trident, and Nariman, with hundreds of hostages. Each and every places the method were the very same: they entered the place (the halls of the hotels, the platform of the station, etc.) and started to spray bullets to the crowd. Tens of people were falling dead or injured at every places, others were running blindly, and if they could they locked themselves up into their rooms, or kitchen of the hotel, or wherever. And spent there several hours, or days as a matter of fact, and some of them still out there, without food, in terror...
Although, even by now the hotel personnel have saved also many lives by their brave, and I can say self-sacrificing action. Right when the strike started on the hall in Taj, for example, the janitor called many guests in the rooms, guiding them to immediately close their doors, turn off the lights, and block the airspace of the door with wet towels, to prevent entering the smoke from the burning hotel. This alone probably saved hundreds, as more than two days later hundreds of hostages were rescued from some of the closed rooms. Above this, however, many employees actively escorted the guest to escape from the hall and restaurant that turned into battlefield, and large number of them were acting as actual living human shield between the guests and the firing terrorists. That is why the large number of hotel personnel among the deadly wounded victims.
So the terrorists were in. They set up control-rooms at each places. With satellite phone connection, etc. They were highly equipped and organized, actually much better than their hunters. After the police failed arrived the commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG). Yesterday early afternoon I red in the news: "at Nariman NSG failed, the army takes over control". The joint elite forces of the Indian army and navy (Irony two: both held strong bases just in the victinity of the captured places), the commandos of NSG and the anti-terrorist group, armed police personnel rushed all over the streets. But do not imagine something you might have seen in some Hollywood movie. The battlefields are barricaded, but otherwise mass of onlookers are everywhere. Also, the commandos themselves seem to walk almost casually. Some of them with bullet-proof jacket, some of them just at the same place without that, chatting. They announced the final attack, then for several hours just nothing happened.
As I started: it seemed and seems like chaos, nobody really knows what should be done, things are evolving with their own momentum. Slowly. Terrorists are still holed in Taj, but in the other wing of the hotel they already started cleaning. Here in India everything co-exists at the same time; sweaty-salty, poverty-richness, death-life, terrorist-cleaner. Well, incredible India...
PS. I wonder what kind of personalities - motives, fears and hopes drove those young terrorists. Have you seen their photos? They are/were very young, maybe 20yrs, and at least some of them seemed to have intelligent, affable faces. Face of an other human being, not that of 'The Evil' that ones' mind immediately associates with the label: terrorist., and to the deeds they've done. Amazing... We have a proverb in Hungary, something like: "That is deep indeed, the well of a soul..."
Tonight I will make my silent pray for the victims. Victims of the innocents, and those NSG, police and other officers who gave their lives to save others'. And pray for those young boys, too, who terribly misunderstood something, and turned the white marble floor of Taj into slimy red.
* Photos from: www.index.hu, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, and AFP