US assault ship arrives, Marines in position at Taj, cops say no to snipers

United States Air Force

The USS Peleliu, a Tarawa class amphibious assault ship, has entered Indian waters off the Mumbai harbour, escorted by other US vessels, to secure the coastline ahead of President Barack Obama's visit, sources said today.

The aircraft the Peleliu usually carries are AV-8B Harrier attack planes, AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, and UH-1N Huey helicopters.

Sources said about 40 marines from the US Marine Corps have stationed themselves on the fifth floor of the heritage wing of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, along with Mumbai Police personnel.

US authorities intended to post snipers on buildings around the hotel and the other sites Obama is expected to visit, but the Mumbai Police has denied permission.

"There are certain cultural differences and the ground realities here are very different from those in the US, and these differences need to be understood. There would be a big difference in the US Secret Service's reactions to situations here, as compared to that of local authorities. That is why permission has not been granted to the US security teams to post their snipers on buildings," said a police officer who did not wish to be named.

According to the final itinerary given to the Mumbai Police, Air Force One is scheduled to land at the airport at 11.50 am on November 6, following which Obama will fly to INS Shikra in a chopper, before moving on to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. He is scheduled to leave Mumbai at 1.45 pm on November 7.

The police will on November dry-run a cavalcade along the route the President's limousine will take once he takes the road from INS Shikra. Giving them support will be the anti-sniper team from National Security Guards, to be deployed on the roofs of buildings along the route.

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