Terror at Taj Hotel could have ended first night itself

Mumbai

Within the first hour of the firing at Café Leopold on 26/11, a small group of armed policemen who pursued the four attackers inside the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers Hotel were presented with 12 golden minutes to restrict, if not eliminate, them as they were holed up inside a room for that duration. Another, much bigger, opportunity came after midnight when the four terrorists took refuge in a second room for nearly two hours and the Mumbai Police had about 120 armed men to take them on.

CCTV footage accessed by The Indian Express shows that on both occasions, the police squandered the chance waiting for commandos to arrive from New Delhi and launch a counter-offensive — a full 12 hours after the attacks began.

The first group of policemen to reach the scene of any of the targets attacked that night was a team of six policemen led by DCP (Zone 1) Vishwas Nangre-Patil. The Indian Express photographer Vasant Prabhu tailed that team as it pursued Lashkar militants Abu Shoaib and Abu Umer, who had shot and killed diners at Café Leopold. This team entered the sprawling hotel complex from the same North Court gate at the rear as the terrorists.

They reached the heritage wing and sought to hunt the terrorists through the maze of corridors inside, intermittently exchanging fire, challenging AK-47s with their pistols. Unable to make any impact, Nangre-Patil and his team moved to the security control room of the hotel on the second floor, where Taj securitymen were monitoring the unfolding horror through CCTV camera pictures from across the hotel.

Over the next four hours, this nondescript room would witness the shocking unpreparedness of the Mumbai Police to take on the attackers whose number had doubled as Shoaib and Umer teamed up with Abdul Rehman Bada and Abu Ali, who entered the hotel from the main entrance five minutes before them at 9.38 pm.

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