Mumbai’s Taj hotel was warned of terrorist attack

November 30th, 2008 - 11:04 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 30 (DPA) The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel in Mumbai had been warned of a possible terrorist attack and had temporarily beefed up security, but nothing could have stopped the gunmen, Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group that owns the hotel, said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.The iconic Taj was one of two luxury hotels taken over by terrorists Wednesday night. When the 59-hour siege on Mumbai ended Saturday, at least 183 people were killed at 10 locations and another 239 were wounded.

“It’s ironic that we did have such a warning and we did have some (security) measures,” Tata said in an interview to Fareed Zakaria to be broadcast on CNN Sunday.

While Tata wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of the warning, he said security measures - such as making guests walk through a metal detector and not allowing cars to park in the hotel’s portico - were eased shortly before Wednesday night’s mayhem.

But even if the security detail was in place, it would not have prevented the terrorists from entering the hotel, Tata admitted.

“They knew what they were doing, and they did not go through the front. All of our (security) arrangements are in the front,” he said. “They planned everything. I believe the first thing they did, they shot a sniffer dog and his handler. They went through the kitchen.”

The Taj, which opened in 1903, is India’s most famous hotel and also one of its most luxurious. Now, its charred interiors are marred by bullet holes and grenade blasts, its corridors soaked in blood.

The attacks revealed huge gaps in the city’s law enforcement and crisis management.

“The infrastructure was woefully poor,” Tata said, citing as examples the fact that it took firefighters three hours to get water to the hotel after a fire broke out, and policemen died despite wearing bullet-proof vests.

Tata said that government agencies had been “very complacent because we’ve really not had this kind of terrorism inflicted upon us”.

But he also commended the people of Mumbai and hoped they would remain united. “Rather than have us succumb to this kind of terror, what it has done is given us a resolve that nobody can do this to us,” he said. “We’re indignant, but we’re not scared.”

The Taj staff has pledged to restore the hotel to its former glory.

“The general manager lost his whole family in one of the fires in the building,” Tata said, referring to Karambir Kang, whose wife and two sons - aged 14 and 5 - were killed.

“I went up to him today and told him how sorry I was, and he said, ‘Sir, we are going to beat this. We are going to build this Taj back into what it was’.”

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