India Faces Questions Over Mumbai Siege

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A relative of a victim killed by terrorists at Nariman House is comforted by a friend, in Mumbai, India, November 29, 2008.

The siege has ended, but the full picture of Mumbai's three days of terror has yet to emerge. Some of the most basic questions about the mayhem that began at 9.30 p.m. on Wednesday and ended at around 10 a.m. Saturday remain unanswered by the authorities. How many terrorists were there, and where did they come from? How was it possible for so few people to inflict so much damage, and how were they able to sustain their assault over such a lengthy period? Although the investigation is just getting underway, some details emerging on Saturday provide some clues.

"There were 10 terrorists in all," Maharashtra state Home Minister R.R. Patil told a press conference Saturday. "Nine were killed, while one has been captured alive." Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said that the arrested man, Ajmal Amin Kasab, was of Pakistani origin, although he did not specify whether the suspect held a Pakistani passport. The minister said the identities of the other attackers had not yet been confirmed. See images of Mumbai the morning after the siege

Although U.S. intelligence sources quoted in the New York Times on Friday said that recent intelligence pointed towards a Pakistan-based Kashmiri group, and some Indian officials had suggested that the attackers had links with Pakistan, Kasab's background is the only hard evidence offered so far to link the attacks in any way to Pakistan. That didn't stop Maharastra state officials pointing a finger at India's neighbor and long-standing rival. "[The attackers] had been continuously getting instructions from abroad via satellite phones," Patil said. When asked which country they were getting support from, the minister replied: "You all know which country." Sources in Indian intelligence tell TIME that National Security Guard commandos have recovered five Blackberry phones and a satellite phone used by the attackers, which should allow authorities to trace the source of militants external communications.

Neither official would address the rumor that there had been other militants involved in the attack who had walked away and blended into Mumbai's civilian population. The persistence of that idea reflects Mumbaikars' disbelief that an attack of this scale could have been executed without the participation of scores of people. But eyewitness accounts suggest the explanation may simply be that the gunmen were not challenged. Sebastian d'Souza, a photographer from the Mumbai Mirror who took the chilling pictures of one of the terrorists training his weapons on Mumbai's main railway station, watched the attack from a train carriage. "There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything," he said he told the Independent. "I told some policemen the gunmen had moved towards the rear of the station but they refused to follow them."

The two men who attacked the railway station are believed to have walked from there to the nearby Cama Hospital. A resident of a building with a clear view of the area said he saw the pair on Wednesday evening as they passed under a streetlight toward the hospital. "They were walking slowly, very confidently," he said. Fifteen minutes passed before he heard the gunshots at Cama Hospital, and there were no police in the area. Thirty minutes passed before he heard the next round of gunfire, which occurred in front of an ATM on the narrow path leading from the hospital toward the main road. It was here that the gunmen encountered a police Jeep, shooting the officers inside and then taking their vehicle. On Friday afternoon, four large bloodstains and a piled of shattered glass were visible on the spot, along with deep maroon tire marks leaving the area. The site was completely unsecured, trampled by pedestrians and, at one point, driven over by a motorcycle.

The two gunmen driving in the stolen vehicle then fired randomly at passersby on the road, before they were stopped by police who killed the one and arrested the other, Kasab. Authorities told reporters today that the three men in the police Jeep attacked by Kasab and his partner had been the city's three top law enforcement officials, including Hemant Karkare, head of the Anti-Terror Squad. Earlier in the week, they had said Karkare died while leading his men into the Taj Hotel. He was cremated on Saturday.

The death toll, meanwhile, as risen to 195, of which 18 were foreign nationals. Deshmukh put the number of injured at 239, and the Disaster Management Cell of the municipal corporation says the number of fatalities could pass 200. Indian officials did not specify how many of the dead had been hostages. There are also conflicting reports over whether U.S. and British citizens had been singled out as hostages, as several news reports has claimed on Wednesday. Officials at Trident Hotels (one wing of the Oberoi) said that the hostages there included one Japanese, three Americans and a Singaporean citizen. They did not know the total number of hostages taken there.

Among the injured is Hawaldar Rajveer, who was part of the team of commandos that stormed the Taj on Thursday. In an interview, he revealed that the commandos had come face to face with at least two of the three terrorists eventually killed in the Taj as early as Thursday. Rajveer said that his team had cleared the top floor, and was working its way down to the 4th, where they had been told the terrorists were hiding in room 471.

"We were told to expect one guy in a red shirt," he says, "and when we entered this room, there was a young man in a red shirt who didn't raise his hands when he was told to. He made a movement to run or get a weapon, and suddenly there was a burst of fire from the room behind him. I ducked, but Maj Unnikrishnan was hit." They retreated, and a while later, charged at the door again. "From all the firing, the room caught fire, and the fire brigade moved in. I passed out, so I don't remember what happened next."

What was clear today was the extent of the damage to the iconic Taj Hotel, the last of the three sites to be cleared. As the victims' bodies were being brought out, the premises of the hotel had not yet been sealed, and it was possible to walk all the way around it. Bodies of dead pigeons, killed probably by the fire or the blasts, were beginning to rot and smell. There was an explosion of whistles from indignant security guards as photographers put their cameras into broken windows and captured scenes of charred rooms. Escape ropes made from bedsheets and curtains were dangling from the windows. The Tata Group, which owns the property, promised on Saturday to "rebuild and restore every inch of the hotel to its original glory".

With reporting by Hussain Zaidi/Mumbai