Tag Archive for 'Nariman House'

The Nanny who saved Baby Moishe

Aimee Ginsburg in Open:

No one but me notices the petite, self-assured woman entering Leopold Café and making her way towards my table, two plastic carrybags in hand, her youthful wavy hair tied determinedly off a face that has grown lovelier since I last saw her. If they knew that she was Sandra Samuel, the Heroic Nanny of 26/11 Who Saved the Baby at Nariman House, everyone would crowd around, but, unrecognised, she negotiates her way smoothly past the round tables. When the waiter hands her a menu and pours her a glass of cool water, I can’t help but wonder: was he here at this Mumbai café when it happened? Does he relive those moments in an endless loop as well? Although I have prepared myself for the rush of memories and decided to staunchly ward them off until later in our meeting, I feel my vision split into two distinct fields, ‘now’ and ‘then’, the ‘then’ so real it would overtake the ‘now’ if not for the vibrant presence of this woman sitting by my side.

“Look what I have brought for you to see!” she announces merrily, pulling out two large framed pictures from her bag. One, a photo she has taken of ‘Moishe Baby’, in which he is tumbling on some greener than green grass, with squinty eyes, a delighted grin. The second is a drawing Moishe has made for her, of a house, grass, flowers and a sun, with ‘from Moishe to Sandra’ scrawled in childish Hebrew letters.

Sandra smiles in loving pride, but, simultaneously, I see her face as it was that day—gaunt, stark, her eyes so dry they threaten to crack open, sitting on the floor of our safe house in Mumbai, in the same clothes she’d been wearing in the three days since it happened; endless days of caring for Baby and praying, hoping, dreading the final news that I have now delivered. Moishe, crying by her side for ima (mommy). She, pressing her cheeks hard, exclaiming in disbelief, “Both?” “How can it be both? No, no, it is not possible, it cannot be both.” Then, she collects herself, looks out the window, and says: “We must not scare the baby, we must stay calm.” More:

Al Qaeda’s American mole

New court documents on the Chicagoan David Headley suspected of helping plan the Mumbai attacks show who he was working with — and suggest an alliance of some of the world’s deadliest terror groups. Bruce Riedel at The Daily Beast:

taj_hotelThe arrest in Chicago of a Pakistani American, David Headley (originally Daoud Gilani), has rightly gotten much attention because of his alleged role in helping the terror group Lashkar-e-taiba to reconnoiter their targets for the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, a year ago. That attack killed dozens of innocent Indian, American, and Israeli citizens in the most spectacular act of international terror since the 9/11 attacks. The court documents served in Chicago, however, also show something else. Headley’s most important connection was to an individual, Ilyas Kashmiri, who is a prominent member of al Qaeda. In short, al Qaeda apparently had an American mole operating inside the United States for at least the last year and maybe longer.

The Chicago records are very clear that Headley was closer to Kashmiri than anyone else including his other contacts in Lashkar-e-taiba. When he heard that Kashmiri might have been killed in a drone attack in northern Pakistan this September, according to the court documents, he was distraught and immediately began searching the Web for any news about his handler. Headley was greatly relieved when his contacts told him Kashmiri was still alive and looking forward to seeing him on his next trip to Pakistan. He was arrested when he tried to board the flight. He was actively involved in plots for new attacks in India focusing on Israeli targets, which he had already reconnoitered, and a plot to attack the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that had attracted the anger of al Qaeda. More:

A year after Mumbai’s 9/11: Moshe’s little heart still beats for India

Seema Sirohi from Jerusalem in the Times of India:

Moshe still thinks of Mumbai as home. The little boy believes his parents live there, and often asks about them. His little world revolves around school and play, drawing and colouring, climbing and falling. Terror and bullets don’t mean anything to him. Not yet.

Moshe’s life appears like that of any normal three-year-old—comfortable, secure and engulfed by love. But behind the surface lies a horrific tragedy that could haunt him as he grows older.

Moshe lost both his parents in the Mumbai attacks last year, as terrorists laid siege to the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Centre in a determined attempt to target the community. He had stood crying near his parents’ fallen bodies, as terrorists stalked up and down, killing four other Jews in the building. More:

A year after Mumbai’s 9/11: Anatomy of a siege

Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai. CC image courtesy of Mosilager on Flickr

Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai. CC image courtesy of Mosilager on Flickr

Marie Brenner in Vanity Fair:

Mooers had no such illusions. She seemed to understand what was happening almost from the start. At 9:45 she placed a call to the concierge. “Is someone doing a demolition?” she asked.

“No, Ms. Mooers.”

“Well, then, you better call the Bombay police and security,” she said. “A bomb has gone off inside the hotel.”

There was no reaction from the concierge. “Do not worry, Ms. Mooers. It is wedding season. There are fireworks all through the city.”

“What I heard were not fireworks. I think there are terrorists in the hotel,” she told him.

“We will check on it,” the concierge said, his tone light and bright. A few moments later Mooers heard gunshots. It was becoming clear to everyone that the hotel was under attack. The operators—who would stay on duty until dawn—began to call guests: “Stay inside. Whatever you do, don’t open your door to anyone. There is a problem in the hotel.”

All that night and the next day, Mooers was on her phone. From her window she saw a man trapped in a burning room. Smoke came under her door. For 24 hours she was marooned in her suite. She thought, I am by the stairs. I might be saved.

Sixty hours of terror

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai. Photo: Clogette / cc

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai. CC image courtesy of Clogette on Flickr

With the clinical precision of a surgeon’s knife, Jason Motlagh revisits the terror of those 60 hours that began in Mumbai on 26/11. In the Virginia Quarterly Review.

I. Ten Gunmen, Ten Minutes

November 26, 2008. 9:40pm, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) hummed with the foot traffic of late commuters. Under hulking steel rafters, held over from the British colonial era, the PA announcer issued final calls for departing suburban trains as they lurched away one after the next, packed with passengers. Long-distance travelers, mostly the poor North Indian migrants who flock to the city by the tens of thousands, took up benches and spots on the concrete floor, resting on sheets of newsprint with their piles of luggage.

Fongen Fernandes, the spry fifty-three-year-old manager of the upper level of the Re-Fresh snack bar with its tall glass panels overlooking the platforms, was talking to a graphic designer. Fernandes stood admiring the designer’s digital handiwork on a laptop open at a table in the far corner of the restaurant, when he felt sand-like debris sprinkle the top of his head. “What’s this?” he said to himself. He wiped his smooth pate a couple times and continued talking, unaware that below two young men had emerged from a bathroom abutting Platform 13 and begun spraying the crowd with gunfire, unaware that a high-velocity bullet shot from less than thirty yards away had missed him by inches and lodged in the wall over his shoulder. He bid the designer farewell and was halfway down the stairs when another series of rounds cracked against the wall and showered sparks into the air. A grenade exploded on the platform. more

Reliving Mumbai’s 9/11

A chilling HBO documentary revisits the three days of trauma Mumbai endured last year — the bloodshed that left 170 dead. Tunku Varadarajan looks back on the attacks:

The Taj Hotel in Mumbai, November 27, 2008.

The Taj Hotel in Mumbai, November 27, 2008.

As two heavily armed terrorists barged through the front doors of the five-star Oberoi Trident hotel in the Indian city of Mumbai, their cell phone rang. “Are you there?” a voice asked. On learning that the men were, indeed, at the appointed place, the same voice said, in a tone so soothing it could have been that of a doctor coddling a terminal patient: “You’re very close to heaven, brother.”

A year ago, 10 young jihadist men—brainwashed to the core of what passed for their souls—set out from training camps in neighboring Pakistan in search of a murderous place in heaven, the path to which ran through Mumbai. Members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the Righteous Army, their goal—messianic and mesmerizing—was to sow as much havoc in a city of 15 million as it was possible for 10 men to do. This was Mumbai’s own 9/11; and yet, unlike the assault on New York City and Washington, in which the killers perished in the first minutes of their meticulous dastardliness, Mumbai’s trauma lasted three whole days, with the terrorists at large, seemingly unstoppable, shooting people at close quarters, breaking down doors, slitting throats, hurling grenades, taking and killing hostages…and making phone calls. More:

For $40, a ‘terror tour’ of Mumbai

From the Indian Express:

mumbai_mapComplete with car and commentary for Rs 1,800, the tour trails the route the 10 terrorists took on the night of 26/11 last year, starting from their landing at Badhwar Park and then to Café Leopold, Taj Mahal Hotel, Nariman House, the Trident-Oberoi Hotel, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Cama & Albless Hospital to Girgaum Chowpatty.

“Jo bikta hai, hum wohi dikhate hain,” said Saurabh, a guide at the Gateway of India. “We offer what sells,” a simple business principle that explains why they ask tourists if they’d like to see these spots, though they’re not mentioned on the itinerary leaflet. More

A year after Mumbai’s 9/11: And then they came for the Jews

Last November, more than 150 people were killed by terrorists in Mumbai. One target was a centre run by this young Jewish couple, who were murdered and perhaps tortured; miraculously, their toddler son escaped. Alastair Gee went back to Mumbai to find out what really happened that night. From the Sunday Times:

Commandos landing on Nariman House, Mumbai

Commandos landing on Nariman House, Mumbai

It is a sticky monsoon day in Mumbai, and Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz walks through the shell of Nariman House. Today, the ruined five-storey structure is testament to the ferocity of the terrorists’ incursion and their battle with Indian commandos. It seems impossible that anyone could have come out alive. All its window frames are empty. The lift is slumped at the bottom of its shaft, and giant, jagged chunks of the internal stairway and handrail are missing. At one point, a section of wall many metres high is gone, and the stairs would be open to the sky if not for a plastic draping. Some rooms appear almost untouched; in others, the walls are pulverised, the splatter-marks of gunfire everywhere.

Berkowitz is an American charged with recreating the Mumbai outpost of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, a Hasidic outreach and educational organisation that sends emissaries around the world. “We are in deep shock,” says Berkowitz, 33. “They have left a gaping hole in our community.” The questions the Lubavitch movement faces are being asked of thousands of other people in the city: what to take from tragedy, how to heal, how to go forward. But even as the organisation looks to the future, uncertainty lingers over what took place during those 48 hours last November. During the siege, six foreigners were murdered inside Nariman House and three Indians were killed on the surrounding streets. Four people from inside the house survived. The building was run by Lubavitch, and was part of a larger attack on hotels and public buildings across Mumbai that resulted in the deaths of at least 166 people. But for the terrorists themselves, Nariman House was different. It was the only Jewish target, and the terrorists would be told by their handlers in Pakistan that the lives of Jews were worth 50 times those of non-Jews. The organisers had sought it out with care. Most Mumbaikars knew of the Taj Mahal hotel. Few were aware of the small Jewish centre tucked away on a backstreet.Strangely, considering Nariman House’s central place in the attacks, the events of the siege are a mystery. The full story of what happened, of how the siege began, of the hostages who escaped, and of the baby who was rescued, has never been told. More:

A change won’t come

Four months after the terror attacks on Mumbai, Naresh Fernandes takes a walk around the city to discover what lessons – if any – have been learnt since 26/11. From The National:


On the wall outside Nariman House, the Jewish centre in the crowded Colaba Market area in southern Mumbai in which a rabbi and his wife were among the hostages killed, the shrapnel indentations have been incorporated into a simple mural. Red circles have been painted around the dozens of bullet pockmarks. Under it a sign in Hindi and English says, “We condemn the 26-11-08 terror attacks.” Next to it is a large Pepsi logo. The building is still empty but on one recent evening children darted down the lane playing catch, scurrying past prams heading to the bakery at the corner.

Down the road at the popular tourist hangout Cafe Leopold, the bullet marks no longer elicit attention. Until it was pointed out to her, a tourist from Argentina who gave her name only as Estephania didn’t even notice that her table was right next to a mirror punctured neatly by a bullet. Farhang Jehani, one of the owners, said that the proprietors had decided against repairing the damage as a reminder of the evening when 10 people, including two members of his staff, fell to a spray of automatic weapon fire. He reopened for business approximately 90 hours later. He didn’t believe that he was being especially brave when he rolled up his shutters. “Life,” he said, “must go on.”

[Photo of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus by bettadesign; under Creative Commons license]


‘When Moshe grows up, I want him to return to Mumbai’

Orphaned in the terrorist attack on Chabad House in Mumbai, two-year-old Moshe is now with his grandparents in Israel. YP Rajesh of the Sunday Express visits him in Afula in Israel as he settles into his new surroundings.


Legend has it that Moses, the most important prophet of the Jews and a significant religious leader for Christians and Muslims too, was ordered by God to deliver the Hebrews from slavery during Biblical times. Moses is said to have fulfilled his task by leading the slaves out of Egypt through the Red Sea and received the 10 Commandments. Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg believes that just as the prophet emerged from the water, his two-year-old grandson Moshe, which is Hebrew for Moses, miraculously emerged unscathed from fire-the 26/11 Terror attack on Chabad House in Mumbai in which Moshe’s parents Rivki and Gavriel Holtzberg were killed along with four other Jews.

The comparisons to divinity don’t end there. Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, the New York-based global chairman of the Conference of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, stops by in Afula in northern Israel on his way to Mumbai, carrying loads of goodies for the chubby little boy who now lives here with his grandparents. Among them is a stuffed-toy version and a holy scripture version of the Torah, the most holy of the sacred writings of Judaism, believed to have been authored by Moses. “When Moshe grows up, I want him to return to Mumbai,” says his grandfather. “And do what his father was doing, helping people without discriminating between them by their religion, colour or nationality.”


How a small group of skilled militants managed to bring Mumbai to its knees

From the Wall Street Journal:

Cafe Leopold was the first scene of trouble.

Cafe Leopold was the first scene of trouble.

As waiters started setting dinner buffets in Mumbai’s luxurious hotels, the killings that would ravage this Indian metropolis began out of sight, in the muddy waters of the Arabian Sea.

In the dusk hours of Wednesday, fisherman Chandrakant Tare was sailing his boat about 100 yards from a fishing trawler when he spotted young men killing a sailor on board. He says he saw them toss the body into the engine room. Assuming he had stumbled upon pirates, Mr. Tare says, he sped away.

Hours later, at least 10 terrorists, having arrived by small craft on the shores of Mumbai, began to sow death and destruction at will across India’s financial capital.

Pieced together from interviews with dozens of witnesses and officials, this account of the three days of the battle for Mumbai shows just how a small but ruthless group of skilled militants, attacking multiple targets in quick succession, managed to bring one of the world’s largest cities to its knees. The human toll — currently at 174 fatalities, including nine terrorists — was exacerbated by the Indian authorities’ lack of preparedness for such a major attack. But the chain of events also points to just how vulnerable any major city can be to this type of urban warfare.


Investigators trace boat’s last voyage

From the Wall Street Journal:


Early on the morning of Nov. 14, the 45-foot fishing boat Kuber left its home port on India’s west coast and headed for the abundant waters near the Sir Creek, a river that runs into the sea at the fuzzy aquatic border between India and Pakistan.

It is a journey that ships from the port city of Porbandar have made for centuries, and that the Kuber has made regularly since it was commissioned in 1997. But for lead crewman Amar Narayan Singh, a 45-year-old father of three, and his four crew members, it was a voyage from which they never returned. About one week in, the boat was hijacked by terrorists who used it as a link in their passage to Mumbai.


Suketu Mehta: What they hate about Mumbai

From the New York Times:

MY bleeding city. My poor great bleeding heart of a city. Why do they go after Mumbai? There’s something about this island-state that appalls religious extremists, Hindus and Muslims alike. Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness.

Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden songbird,” he said. It flies quick and sly, and you’ll have to work hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous fortune will open up for you. The executives who congregated in the Taj Mahal hotel were chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill the songbird.


Previously on AW: Suketu Mehta: The terrorists attacked my city because of its wealth

Collateral damage



The Chabad-Lubavitch center, the local outpost of a global group that promotes Judaism, is located in Nariman House, one of the buildings that has been attacked in Mumbai.

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, who runs the center, and his wife, Rivka, it is now feared are among the hostages killed. Their two-year-old son, Moishe was rescued apparently by a maidservant yesterday. It is believed that the child’s grandparents who were visiting from Israel have also been killed.

It is little Moishe’s birthday on Saturday.

Read The Jerusalem Post story here.

Here, a story on how the Rabbi’s child kept asking for water.

Mumbai terror: the attack on Nariman House

Commandos stormed Nariman House, the Jewish centre where hostages were held. Reuters

Commandos storm Nariman House, the Jewish centre where hostages were held. Reuters

Keith Bradsher, a New York Times correspondent, is sending updates from his Blackberry as he watches a commando operation taking place at the Nariman House, home to the Orthodox Jewish group Chabad Lubavitch, in Mumbai. The timestamps are London time (GMT). Mumbai is five and a half hours ahead of his timestamps. Click here for his updates.

Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2008 05:32 [11am in Mumbai]
There has been no further shooting for an hour but the police show no signs of releasing their cordon nor are any ambulances leaving. I am heading to the Taj.

Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2008 05:16:27
There has now been no shooting for more than half an hour. The street below my rooftop has six schoolbus-sized buses parked where none were before. All appear to have carried more commandos to the fight. Only one bus is still full of commandos, apparently held in reserve, while the rest are nearly empty.
Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2008 04:56:03
After 15 minutes of silence, five commandos in black with heavy-duty body armor have approached the building. Four are carrying assault rifles and the fifth, possibly their officer, has a radio in his right hand.

Israel – India’s rescue efforts ‘premature and badly planned’

From the Times, UK:

Israel defence officials have criticised the way Indian security forces have handled the terror attacks in Bombay, after it appeared that India turned down their offer of help to defeat the militants.

The officials, from Israel’s security forces, told The Jerusalem Post that the Indian troops prematurely stormed the besieged hotels where militants were holding hostages, risking lives in the process.

Indian counter-terrorist forces were well trained but failed to gather sufficient intelligence before engaging the terrorists, they said.

“In hostage situations, the first thing the forces are supposed to do is assemble at the scene and begin collecting intelligence,” said a former official in Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency.


Terror attack on Mumbai: India’s 9/11

Witnesses said the attackers were ’young, like boys’. This image from an Indian television channel.

Witnesses said the attackers were ’young, like boys’. This image from an Indian television channel.

At around 10pm Wednesday, terrorists armed with heavy machine guns and grenades struck at Mumbai’s high-profile and busy targets — the CST (formerly VT) rail terminus, the luxury Taj Hotel at Gateway and The Oberoi and Trident (also known as the old Oberoi) at Nariman Point, Nariman House (a Jewish residential building) and the popular Leopold Cafe in Colaba.

At noon the next day, terrorists were still holding dozens of hostages in the luxury hotels. Media reports said the attackers were seeking out Americans and Britons. Indian security forces have surrounded the premises and were exchanging fire with gunmen At least 101 people, including six foreigners, have been killed and 287 injured. Among those dead also are three senior police officers, including Hemant Karkare, the head of the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS). At the time of writing this, the encounter was continuing.

A Reuters report said “an Israeli family is being held hostage by gunmen in a Mumbai apartment, Nariman House. Local residents said a rabbi, his wife and two children live in and own the building, but it was not clear if they were the hostages. Gunfire could be heard from the area, a Reuters reporter on the scene said.”

Reports also asid that Israel’s Foreign Ministry is attempting to locate approximately 20 Israeli nationals missing in Mumbai. The Chabad House is located in Nariman House, a Jewish residential building. At noon the encounter at Nariman House was still going on. (Read Reuters story on Nariman House here)

Click here and here to check Twitter stream for updates on the terrorist siege of Mumbai:

Click here to watch live coverage on NDTV24X7

More updates here, here and here.

Pal Pillai/AFP)

Mumbai’s Taj Hotel, the scene of one in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks. (Photo: Pal Pillai/AFP)

From the Times, UK: As thick black smoke billowed from its domed roof, and flames poured through its gothic arched windows, one Indian television anchor summed up the feelings of millions of watching Indians. “If America cannot forget the images of the World Trade Centre, this image of fire billowing out of this beautiful structure which represents Mumbai and its free spirit will not be forgotten here,” he said. More:

And from Reuters: “Sitting here watching the Taj burn down”

From India Uncut blog:

A Night Out In Mumbai (Updated)

This is turning out to be one crazy night. A friend of mine had an opening of her art exhibition a few hours ago, so we ventured to South Bombay for that. We attended the exhibition, sipped the litchee juice, nibbled on party snacks, and then six of us headed out for dinner. First we tried Indigo Deli, which is a couple of hundred metres from the Taj. We were told there would be a 25-minute wait. So we headed to All Stir Fry, the restaurant in the Gordon House Hotel in a lane down from there. They told us we’d have to wait 20 minutes. We stepped out again, and as we did so, we heard gunshots, and saw people running towards us from the left side.

One of the hotel employees rushed out and told us to get back in. “There must have been an encounter,” he said. “Get back in, you’ll be safe inside.”

We followed him in. We waited in the lounge-bar upstairs for a while. The big screen there was showing cricket. India won. Then someone changed the channel.

That’s when we realised that this was much more than a random police encounter, or a couple of gunshots.


My friend said to me ‘don’t be a hero, don’t say you’re British’

From the Guardian:

Alex Chamberlain, who works for the Indian Premier League website, said: “A guy burst in with a machine gun. He was in western dress wearing jeans and he asked for British and American tourists.

“They told everybody to stop and put their hands up and asked if there were any British or Americans. My friend said to me, ‘don’t be a hero, don’t say you are British’. I am sure that is what this is all about,” he told Sky News.


For a text of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation in the wake of the terror strikes in Mumbai, click here.

On how the events unfolded, click here.