Taj hotel was told in September to step up security: official

December 3rd, 2008 - 8:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Dec 3 (IANS) Three police officials spent at least five hours with the security staff at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai Sep 30 and gave them 22 instructions to ensure the hotel’s protection, an official said Wednesday. Millions the world over have rued the grievous damage the 105-year-old hotel suffered in the fiendish terror strike over three days beginning Nov 26 - many of them perhaps more than they rued the loss of 183 lives.

Hotel doyen Ratan Tata vowed to rebuild the heritage structure brick by brick.

But it now turns out that the Taj security managers completely ignored a clear warning of a possible terror strike that top Mumbai police brass had dinned into their ears only two months earlier.

Three police officers, including the deputy commissioner of Zone -1 within whose jurisdiction the favourite haunt of foreign tourists falls, spent at least five hours Sep 30 with the Taj chief security manager Mahavir Singh Rathod and his two aides giving them a set of 22 instructions to ensure the hotel’s protection against an imminent terror strike, a police official said.

The police had received intelligence inputs regarding the possible terror strike only a day earlier on Sep 29. The input had clearly mentioned the name of the Taj Mahal Hotel among the terrorists’ targets.

Among the precautions the police asked the Taj security managers to take was to permanently close with a grill that very gate of the hotel from where four terrorists stormed into the building Nov 26 close to midnight, the police official told IANS.

Not to provide internet facility and wif-fi technology to any patron, deployment of armed guards and dog squad and provision of the hotel layout map to tourists in case of emergency were some of the other instructions the police officials handed down to the hotel security staff.

Curiously, even the police, now being accused of even more serious lapse of ignoring a series of warnings received from Intelligence Bureau beginning March 2007 up to November this year, had scaled down the security cover around the Taj Mahal Hotel earlier in November.

A National Security Guard (NSG) commando and a police constable laid down their lives in the nerve wracking 60-hour battle to liberate the Taj from the control of the terrorists. At least 50 people, including foreign tourists too, died in the hotel that is said to have suffered damage worth Rs.5 billion.

A clarification mailed to IANS by the Taj management said: “Given the security scenario in India in recent times, we hold meetings with police and security forces at periodic intervals. We have always followed the recommendations made to us by the Police and security forces. We always strictly follow police guidance on the appropriate level of security we should maintain at any time and the same are reviewed in response to such suggestions.”

The clarification, bearing no name or signature, further said: “None of the locations or hotels attacked during the night of Wednesday 26th could have been prepared for the level of ruthless and well-planned terrorist strikes directed against them. Such level of attacks was not anticipated at any level of the security force.”

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