Editor’s Note: CNN's Andrew Stevens happened to be staying in one of the hotels attacked in Mumbai, India. Below is his report on AC360°. Click here for all AC360° reports on the attack on Mumbai.
Andrew Stevens | Bio
CNN International Anchor, World News Asia
Bombs, gunfire, chaos, carnage. Mumbai, popular with Americans and the commercial capital of India, erupted in a coordinated terror attack.
It began around 10:00 p.m. local time, armed with grenades, automatic weapons and explosives, an unknown number of extremists killed scores including the city's anti-terrorism chief and wounded hundreds.
At least ten sites were targeted including two luxury hotels, cafes, a hospital for women and children, a movie theater, and a train station. At the historic Taj Mahal hotel where a large plume of smoke rose hours after the attacks began, witnesses say gunmen were looking for U.S. and British citizens. An untold number of people have been taken hostage.
The army has moved into the hotel and across the city. Several terrorists have been killed or arrested. Others remain on the loose.
Both President Bush and President-Elect Barack Obama issued statements, each strongly condemning the attack. Who's behind this? Local reports say a group named the Deccan Mujahedeen claimed responsibility. Some officials say it bears all the hall marks of Al Qaeda. Mumbai is the mecca for western business men and women, many from America. It's believed thousands of U.S. citizens own a city that is now under siege.
The American Citizen Services Unit provides emergency services to Americans in the event of death, arrest, illness, missing persons, destitution and other circumstances. However, the type of services provided are limited. For information on those services, please refer to the State Department's website for travelers.
A U.S. citizen who wishes to request emergency assistance can call the American Citizen Services Unit 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at (91-22) 2363-3611. Outside business hours, the person should call the Embassy switchboard at (91-22) 2363-3611, dial “0” and request to speak with the "Duty Officer." When calling from the United States, begin by dialing 011-91-22-. When calling from within India but outside Mumbai, please dial 022-2363-3611.
For more information, click here.
One of the places targeted in the devastating Mumbai terrorist attacks was the Leopold Café. Anyone who has traveled abroad has been to beloved spots like the Leopold…maybe not in Mumbai…maybe in London, or Mexico City, or Rome…but it’s a familiar place…the type where you can be thousands of miles from home, but feel like you’re in your own favorite neighborhood café.
The Leopold has its own fan club with over 400 members from across the globe on the popular social networking site facebook. The scale of the Mumbai attack is not yet fully known, but this event will no doubt hit home for many people around the world who've been there:
Here's a description on a Facebook.com page devoted to the Leopold Cafe:
“It's not uncommon to walk into this Colaba institution and not see a single Indian face around. Why it's such a hit with foreigners is a mystery, since the food is good but not exceptional, and the atmosphere can be noisy and rather smoky. All the same, it is consistent, and because it's one of those popular places where tourists like to share stories with other tourists over a beer, it deserves mention. It caters to Western tastes by providing items like cereals, eggs and toast, fish and chips, and club sandwiches side by side with chicken biryani and Indian-Chinese fare. The fresh fruit juices and lassis (yogurt drinks) are always a good bet if you're looking for a light pick-me-up during shopping forays on the causeway. And if you're keen to get the inside scoop on how Bollywood films are made, hang out here; casting agents looking for foreigners to work as extras on current productions frequently scan the clientele for able bodies at this favored travelers' hangout.
Tip: Check your bill before you pay it to make sure it doesn't contain anything you didn't order.”
The Times of India
In one of the most violent terror attacks on Indian soil, Mumbai came under an unprecedented night attack as terrorists used heavy machine guns, including AK-47s, and grenades to strike at the city's most high-profile targets - the hyper-busy rail terminus; the landmark Taj Hotel at the Gateway and the luxury Oberoi Trident at Nariman Point; the airport at Santa Cruz; the Cama and GT hospitals; the Metro Adlabs multiplex and Mazgaon Dockyard - killing at least 100 and sending more than 900 to hospital, according to latest reports.
The attacks have taken a tragic toll on the city's top police brass: The high-profile chief of the anti-terror squad Hemant Karkare was killed; Mumbai's additional commissioner of police (east) Ashok Kamte was gunned down outside the Metro; and celebrated encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar was also killed.
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CNN White House Correspondent
The Obama transition team has just set up a special team to interact with the State Department’s Operations Center as well as the office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to an Obama aide. That information is then being filtered to President-elect Obama, who is getting regular updates at his residence here in Chicago. He is scheduled to be home all day Thursday celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends.
More: Obama aide confirms President-elect spoke by phone with Rice, and says transition team spoke to State Dept earlier.
One other note – Obama aide says the President-elect called India’s ambassador to the U.S. tonight and “conveyed that his thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this tragic situation. He said that there is just one President at a time. He also told him that he is monitoring the situation and has been in communication with Secretary Rice."
Barbara Starr | BIO
Intel services from the US, India and Britain were trying to piece together what they knew in the wake of the Mumbai bombing, a US official tells me.
There is some thought, according to this source, that the attack might be linked to a group called LET (Lashkar-E-Tayyaba). It’s a terrorist group that is active in the region. One of the largest and most active Islamic militant organizations in south asia–a group that has carried out major attacks in India–its objective ..ending Indian rule KASHMIR–
A US counterterrorism official says “when you see the choice of target and the sophistication of the attack,” Islamic extremism is what would come to mind.
“No one would be surprised if its Islamic extremists,” the counterterrorism official added.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Al Qaeda central, it could be a related group. What are US experts looking at for clues? The level of organization, money, financing, and communication needed to pull this off.
It's now just after 7am in Mumbai, India. It's the start of a new day. A choatic day. India's largest city is in crisis mode after a series of terrorist attacks.
At least 10 sites were targeted, includng two luxury hotels, a cafe, a hospital for women and children, a movie theatre and train station.
At least 87 people have been killed and another 185 others are wounded.
There are also believed to be hostages in the two hotels. A witness told local television that he was in the one of the hotels around 10 p.m. local time when gunmen entered the lobby and began rounding up guests, asking for anyone with a U.S. or British passport and taking hostage about 15 of them.
Let me put this terror rampage in perspective. A U.S. businessman in India who witnessed an explosion at the airport had an interesting way to put today's attacks in context for American viewers because Mumbai is like the New York of India.
"Today's attacks are like terrorists took over the Waldorf and the Ritz and then went on a shooting spree in Times Square," he said.
So, who's responsible for the bloodshed? What was the motive? And, should Americans be alert overseas and here at home?
We'll have the latest on this developing story tonight on AC360°.
Hope you can join us.