Five hostages dead in Mumbai’s Jewish centre; two terrorists killed (Lead)

November 28th, 2008 - 9:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 28 (IANS) At least five hostages have been killed at Nariman House, known among Israeli tourists as Chabad House, the Jewish centre targeted by the terrorists in Mumbai. It is not yet clear if the rabbi of the centre and his wife are among those killed. The five-storey centre is a popular stop for Israeli tourists, especially backpackers, who visit this country in thousands every year after finishing their national army service or after their university studies.

National Security Guard (NSG) Director General J.K. Dutt confirmed the death of five hostages as also that of two terrorists. He was not sure if there were any hostages still alive in the building where he said a floor still remained to be secured from the terrorists — who had laid siege to the building Wednesday night.

On Thursday, 14 people were rescued from the largely residential building in a crowded section of the upmarket Colaba neighbourhood of south Mumbai. It witnessed fierce fighting and explosions all through Friday after NSG commandos were airdropped on the terrace of the building.

But the terrorists apparently put up a stiff fight right through the day and probably barricaded themselves in some rooms that resulted in commandos blasting some walls of the rooms that resulted in deafening and flaming explosions whose sounds reverberated in the city.

The rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivka and six others were taken hostage by an unspecified number of terrorists who had come there with the specific aim of seeking Israelis. The couple’s two-year-old son and a staff member at the centre managed to escape the building.

Sandra Samuel, 44, the cook who pulled the boy out the building, said she saw Rabbi Holzberg, his wife Rivka and two other unidentified guests lying on the floor, apparently “unconscious.”

Rivka Holtzberg’s family live in the Israeli city of Afula. Her father, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, said: “I got a call telling us to listen to news of terrorists attacking in Mumbai. We tried to get in touch but all the systems went down and later we heard that the terrorists stormed the building and they were being held hostage.”

The Holtzbergs offer visitors a number of different programmes and also provide kosher food. About 4,000 full-time emissary families direct more than 3,300 Chabad institutions around the world.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project, said: “Just like the Passover Massacre in Netanya, Israel, this attack was by Muslim extremists who are targeting those who love freedom, tolerance and peace. While the victims were not sitting at their tables eating turkey, the timing of the attack was clearly done to capture news headlines as Americans celebrate one of their most important holidays.

“Indeed, Thanksgiving is a celebration of freedom and cooperation - the opposite of what these Muslim extremist terrorists want for the world. The world must work together to stop such threats no matter from where they stem.”

A spokesperson for the Chabad movement in New York, Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, said: “It seems that the terrorists commandeered a police vehicle which allowed them easy access to the area of Chabad House and threw a grenade at a gas pump nearby.”

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