November 27, 2008

Powerful explosion reported at Chabad House in Mumbai

One terrorist has been killed by Indian special forces in the Chabad House in Mumbai, but four others still remain barricaded inside and are holding off efforts to reach Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivka, and possibly others, who have been held hostage since multiple attacks rocked the city late Wednesday night, Reuters reported on Thursday morning.
Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and...

Sky News reported that a loud explosion had been heard at the Chabad House. There was no official word as to the cause of the explosion, which could indicate an Indian attempt to storm the compound.

Earlier, the kidnappers apparently released the couple's young boy and his nanny, who said that the rabbi and his wife were alive but unconscious. Indian television showed footage of the young boy leaving the building with the nanny. The rabbi's mother confirmed to Army Radio that her two-year-old grandson had been released.

"Pray that we should hear good news," urged a Chabad spokesman, Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, in a telephone conversation with The Jerusalem Post from New York in the early hours of Thursday morning, Israel time.

Chabad later said that it feared for the life of another man, the brother in law of a prominent Israeli rabbi, who may have been among those beind held hostage.

Joshua Runyan, the news editor of the website, told the Post that there had been "several reports that shots were fired in the vicinity of the Chabad House, and unconfirmed reports on CNN of casualties in the Nariman House." Nariman House, Runyan said, was the original name of the Chabad House, which was purchased two years ago.

Runyan, who is in Jerusalem, said that a friend of the rabbi's had received an email from Holtzberg, unrelated to the attacks, at around the time of the attacks or shortly before they began, but that there had been no contact with Holtzberg since. "Since then, we've been trying all the numbers," he said.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem confirmed the possibility that hostages had been taken in the Chabad House area, Israel Radio reported. By 6 a.m., the ministry had yet to make contact with 20 Israelis in India.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with the Israeli consul general in Mumbai, who briefed her on the attacks, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The statement said that the ministry and the consulate were making "maximum efforts to ascertain the situation of the Israelis in the city as quickly as possible."

Livni sharply condemned the attacks, saying, "This is further painful evidence that the terrorist threat is the greatest challenge which Israel and the international community have to face. Nothing justifies the unforgivable slaughter of innocents."

Indian news agencies reported that three people were killed in or close to the Chabad House. The dead were unlikely to be Jewish, said reports.

Phone calls by the Post to the Chabad House and to the Holtzbergs went unanswered late Wednesday night and in the small hours of Thursday morning.

Friends of the Holtzbergs placed messages on various internet sites appealing for information about them.

The Foreign Ministry repeated at 2 am that it had no reports of Israeli casualties in the attacks. Runyan said that the Israeli consulate in Mumbai also had no reports of Israeli casualties.

Israel Radio reported that staff from the Consulate were visiting local hospitals. Runyan said the Chabad House was a popular tourist destination and that "Israelis regularly come by and visit."

In an article on the Web site, Runyan wrote that "Chabad-Lubavitch representatives in New York and Israel are working alongside the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the US Consulate in Mumbai and a volunteer team of local residents to ascertain the well being of the Holtzbergs and other Jews in the area."

He added: "People are urged to say Psalms for Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma and Rivka bas Yehudis, and anyone affected by the tragedy."


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