Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 5 News List

MUMBAI ATTACKS: Tales of terror emerge from Mumbai

MAYHEMA South African security guard barricaded around 120 people in a kitchen, turned out the lights to confuse the attackers and armed people with meat cleavers

AFP , MUMBAI

Eyewitnesses have described dramatic scenes of terror in the assault in Mumbai — from bodies in pools of blood to desperate hotel guests arming themselves with cleavers to survive.

Caught up in the brazen attack on India’s financial hub, many said they cowered in the dark for hours, waiting to be rescued and fearing the militants would shoot them dead at any moment.

“We heard some gunshots. We barricaded the restaurant and we moved everybody into the kitchen,” said Faisul Nagel, a South African security guard who was in the Taj Mahal hotel with colleagues when the assault began.

Using tables and refrigerators to barricade themselves in, Nagel said they armed themselves with the only weapons they could put their hands on.

“We basically put the lights off in the restaurant just to create an element of surprise. And we armed ourselves with kitchen knives and meat cleavers,” he said by phone.

They ended up helping around 120 people escape — including a 90-year-old woman who had to be carried in her chair down 25 flights of stairs.

Paul Guest, a retired Australian judge, was found by armed soldiers in his room at the Taj Mahal. He could scarcely believe what he saw when he was led to safety.

“Outside in the foyer of this beautiful hotel, [it] was just like in a fog with all the smoke,” he told Australian radio. “There was blood all over the floor and bits of bodies.”

An unknown number of people were trapped in the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi/Trident, five-star hotels that were among a dozen sites attacked by militants on Wednesday night.

It was a harrowing night of terror for many, who tried not to make noise for fear of attracting the attention of the attackers. They feared coming out of their rooms, with the sound of shooting all around.

“We’ve been waiting for hours and hours for the army to come and say we can go downstairs,” one Western woman said by phone late on Thursday from inside the Oberoi/Trident. “We have to keep silent. They could be looking for hostages.”

David Coker, 23, and his partner Katie Anstee, 24, had just arrived for a holiday to celebrate their graduation from university when they went to eat at Mumbai’s Cafe Leopold on Wednesday night.

“We had literally just ordered and then it seemed like firecrackers — people were screaming,” he told Australia’s Courier-Mail newspaper.

Anstee was shot in the leg, with the bullet breaking her femur and exiting through the front of her thigh, while Coker was grazed by a bullet.

“I turned around and she was crawling out the door because she couldn’t walk,” he said.

Coker said the attackers looked “just like boys.”

Garrick Harvison, who was trapped in the Oberoi with an Australian trade delegation, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he kept looking at pictures of his young family to remain calm during his ordeal.

“For about the last six hours I’ve been told: ‘Yes, you’re out soon, you’re out soon, you’re out soon,’” Harvison said.

“But I understand the situation that people don’t want to go anywhere until [the militants] are eradicated,” he said

Muneer al Mahaj, from the southern Iraqi city of Basra, got out of the Oberoi/Trident more than a day and a half after the assault began.

“I cannot believe what I have seen in the last 36 hours. I have seen dead bodies, blood everywhere,” he said.

With the ordeal ongoing yesterday, it was not immediately known if all those who spoke to outside media had managed to make it to safety.

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