Mumbai: city of death

November 30, 2008

The terrorist attacks on Mumbai finally ended on Saturday, leaving at least 195 people dead. The Sunday Times has this story — how the siege began, and ended:

The charred lobby

The charred lobby

First contact with the terrorists came shortly after 8pm on Wednesday night, when a small yellow and black inflatable dinghy pulled up to the shore at Sassoon Docks, near the financial district that marks the southern tip of the Mumbai peninsula.

In the boat were about eight men in their twenties, all wearing casual western clothes that would help them blend in with the tourists and affluent young Indians who populate the area.

“Six young men with large bags came ashore, after which the two who remained in the boat started the outboard motor and sped off,” said Suresh, a local man who witnessed the landing.

“They said they were students. When we tried to find out what they were doing, they spoke very aggressively, and I got scared.” He was right to have done.

A few blocks inland, in the Colaba district, it was a typically noisy night at Leopold cafe, where generations of backpackers have swapped travellers’ tales over one of its four-pint tubes of beer.

The bar had character of sorts: bistro-style tables and chairs strewn around brown and cream pillars, kitsch pictures of the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China, and ancient metal ceiling fans that barely outpaced the waiters. Guidebooks grumble about too many backpackers and expats, and the western-centric menu, but there were always a few Indians too, usually young and western-leaning, on a date or celebrating a birthday or promotion with friends.

Wednesday night was busy as usual. Harnish Patel, a young chartered surveyor from Havant, Hampshire, was there with Joey Jeetun, 31, from Bethnal Green, London, whom he had met earlier on a boat trip. They were talking, over loud music, of his plans to spend a month touring India.

More:

And there’s more here


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