Iconic Hotel Taj bears brunt of terror attack (Lead)

November 27th, 2008 - 5:21 am ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 27 (IANS) The Hotel Taj, India’s premier, 105-year-old five-star hotel in south Mumbai that has played host to international celebrities, bore the brunt of the deadly terror attack here as its top floor caught fire after an explosion early Thursday.The hotel, facing the Arabian Sea and at a stone’s throw from the landmark Gateway of India, was among the seven select places targeted by a team of terrorists, who entered its lobby and fired indiscriminately.

There were six explosions in the hotel, one of which sparked a fire on the top floor of the new building, which is touching the heritage building. The fire was brought under control as rescue efforts were on at 3.30 a.m, officials and witnesses said.

As eight terrorists were holed inside the hotel, holding the guests including foreigners captive, Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) personnel as well as Indian Army personnel stormed the building, the officials said.

In a gun battle at the hotel, Mumbai Police ATS chief Hemant Karkare was killed.

It was a strange site indeed for the hotel, which has been a part of the metropolis’ history and has hosted top international and national personalities, from maharajas and princes to kings, presidents, CEOs and entertainers.

They include Elvis Presley, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Jacques Chirac, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Katharine, Duchess of Kent, Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway, Marianne Faithfull, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, The Beatles, Bill Clinton and Jacqueline Onassis.

Commissioned by pioneering businessman Jamsetji Tata, the hotel first opened its doors to guests Dec 16, 1903.

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