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How Mumbai attacks unfolded

A worker, left, is seen through a broken window as another looks out at Leopold Cafe
Investigators are piecing together how the attacks unfolded

New details have been slowly emerging about the early stages of the Mumbai terror attacks. Much of the information has been gleaned after the capture of one of the militants involved, as the BBC's Prachi Pinglay reports from Mumbai.

The story of the Mumbai terror attacks likely began when a private fishing trawler with five crew members set sail on the Arabian sea off the coast of Porbandar in India's western Gujarat state on 13 November.

Sometime during the next 12 days, the trawler was taken over at sea by at least 10 young men, aged between 20 and 23 years, carrying backpacks and bags, according to sources in the Mumbai police, coastguard, and commandos.

Investigators still do not know what the men were sailing on and where they were coming from when they took over the trawler - though suspicion has fallen on the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

What they do know is that the men tied up one of the crew in the trawler's engine room, and slit his throat. The abandoned trawler was found by Indian coastguard ships more than three nautical miles off Mumbai.

GPS co-ordinates

When coastguards boarded the vessel, they found the dead crew member, plus a satellite phone and GPS tracker that possibly belonged to the trawler's crew.

Investigators say that Kasar has told them that their work was to 'take hostages for safe passage'

Investigators told the BBC that the tracker showed "a return mapping for Karachi", leading to speculation that the men who attacked Mumbai had planned to return in the same trawler.

A ferry doing about 20 knots can cover the 506-nautical mile distance between Karachi and Mumbai in a little over 24 hours.

After abandoning the trawler, the men opened the inflatable dinghies they were carrying and sailed into Mumbai waters early on 26 November, a little more than 10 hours before the attack, investigators say.

An abandoned dinghy has been recovered in the sea off one of the many fishing colonies which dot the city's coast.

One of the top investigating officers told the BBC that the gunmen - nine were eventually killed and one arrested - split up into four groups and took the city's rickety black-and-yellow Fiat taxis from the fishing colony at Cuffe Parade to some of the locations they planned to attack.

They say the men left grenades or bombs inside the taxis before they got out. The taxis exploded soon after, killing two drivers and one bystander.

Locals look at a fire as it burns at Taj Mahal Palace
Militants split into groups, attacking a number of locations

The first round of attacks took place around the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or the Victoria Terminus railway station, when gunmen entered the platforms and fired on people indiscriminately.

They walked out of the station after the carnage, and shot three policemen and fired at journalists gathered near a cinema to record the event. Then they took a police van and drove off.

A flat tyre forced the gunmen to abandon the police van. The men then stole a Skoda car and drove towards the seafront Marine Drive, just as the other groups of gunmen were attacking a cafe, two luxury hotels and a Jewish cultural centre.

As the Skoda took a zig-zag route through the streets of Mumbai, the men inside opened fire in several locations - including at the Cama and Albless hospital for women and children.

Police say they intercepted the Skoda on the seafront and shot at it, killing one of the gunmen and arresting the other.

Twenty-one-year-old Azam Amir Qasab, who police say is from Pakistan's Punjab province, is now the investigators' key to unravelling the planning that went into the attacks.

'Senseless violence'

Commandos who fought early pitched battles with the gunmen in the two luxury hotels, the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Trident, say that the lithe attackers moved quickly from room to room and climbed up and down floors to throw them off tracks.

The gunmen set fire to curtains and threw grenades to distract the commandos, according to federal commando chief JK Dutt.

"We found a lot of unexploded grenades inside the hotel. They damaged a lot of property. It was senseless violence," he said.

They also found lots of dry fruits, Indian and American currency, ammunition and fake Mumbai college student identity cards in the bags the gunmen had left behind during the attacks.

"We are checking whether the gunmen had any local support. But what we are sure is that they were not from India, and had trained in and were carrying stuff - AK-56, AK-47 and 9mm revolvers and hand grenades possibly of Chinese make," said an investigator.

The investigators say that Qasab has told them that their work was to "take hostages for safe passage". He also told them their aim was to "create an international incident, and anything big in Mumbai would be noticed all over the world".


 Map of Mumbai showing location of attacks



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