Terrorists knew Taj hotel layout too well: NSG chief (Second Lead)

November 30th, 2008 - 10:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Manesar (Haryana), Nov 30 (IANS) The terrorists who attacked Mumbai knew the layout of the Taj Mahal Hotel “too well” and tricked commandos, stretching the gunbattles for nearly 60 hours, National Security Guard (NSG) chief J.K. Dutt said Sunday.Dutt, who led the anti-terror operation, said the terrorists had made no demand to release the hostage from three sites, including two luxury hotels and a Jewish centre. The terrorists attacked these places Wednesday night after creating a mayhem in the financial capital of India.

“They knew the layout plan of the hotel (Taj) too well. They entered halls where there were many doors to enter and exit,” Dutt told reporters at the NSG headquarters at Manesar in Haryana, 20 km from Gurgaon.

“The Taj is a heritage building built in a 20th century manner. There are columns, domes, corridors and all that is not linear. Otherwise, they could have been trapped in a corner easily.”

“We found there was a spiral staircase. One of the terrorists had taken position on that to protect them from the rear side. That is why it became very difficult to dislodge them. We had to keep changing our strategies,” he added.

The hotel, a landmark 105-year-old building that has become a symbol of Mumbai, was the last flashpoint to be secured by NSG commandos Saturday after terrorists took over three places in south Mumbai — the Taj Mahal hotel, the Oberoi Trident Hotel and the Jewish centre Nariman House.

The battle between the commandos and the terrorists at the Taj lasted for nearly 60 hours, till Saturday morning.

Dutt said the terrorists navigated inside the hotel more easily then the NSG commandos who were new to the mammoth hotel with over 500 rooms and umpteen corridors.

The NSG chief, however, refuted reports that terrorists planned to blow up the iconic hotel and said: “Terrorists did not appear to have plans to blow up the Taj heritage hotel as they lacked enough explosives.”

Dutt also lauded efforts of his search teams.

During the mopping up operation, he said the NSG found many unexploded grenades in the hotel after the commandos had killed the terrorists Saturday.

“With great care, our officers defused unexploded grenades found in the hotel,” Dutt said.

At least 183 people, including 22 foreigners, were killed when terrorists who India says came from Pakistan sneaked into Mumbai Wednesday night and struck at 10 sites.

“All the senseless killings in the Taj and Oberoi-Trident hotels had been carried out before commando units stormed the buildings,” Dutt said.

The NSG chief thanked the media for their support during the operation to oust terrorists from various sites across Mumbai.

“I thank the media for their cooperation because we found (that) if we were working through the morning and night, even the media stayed at their posts and covered the operation,” he said.

Dutt said the media coverage gave the security forces advantage at times. But he added that there were occasions when they had to request the media to curb coverage of some action as they were not sure if the gunmen were using the visuals to their advantage.

“They (media persons) of course obliged,” he added.

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