Today, eight years back, India experienced one of it's worst terrorist attacks when a group of 10 terrorists associated with Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT) attacked country's financial capital Mumbai and left the entire nation in shock.
The terror strike was different in a sense that for the first time, terrorists trained in Pakistan, used the sea route to enter India. The terrorists who participated in 26/11 Mumbai attacks were highly trained and were preparing for this strike for quite a long time. Their objective was to create terror and get some key terrorists released a la Kandhar hijacking episode.
Here, we are presenting 10 important facts about the 26/11 attacks:
1. It was on 21st November, 2008 that ten terrorists left Pakistan in boat, and headed towards India.
The terrorists killed four fishermen and hijacked an Indian trawler, the Kuber and threatened the captain to sail to India on 23rd November.
On 26th November, while they were 7km away from the Mumbai shore, the terrorists killed the captain, and headed towards Colaba in inflatable speedboats.
On reaching the docks at Macchimar Nagar, in Mumbai's Cuffe Parade neighbourhood, while six of the men got off, the rest continued sailing along the shore.
On being asked about their identity, the six of them introduced themselves as students.
The remaining four men came ashore at Badhwar Park, Cuffe Parade, where on being asked about their identity by the local Marathi-speaking fishermen, they reportedly told the fishermen to mind their own business and they split up and headed in two different ways.
2. The 10 terrorists from Pakistan created havoc in the city of Mumbai with more than 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks on hotels, a train station, a hospital and a Jewish community centre over three days.
Killing around 164 people and injuring more than 600 people, the 26/11 Mumbai attacks shook the entire nation to the core.
Though all the terrorists were killed, one was caught alive- Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, who was hanged to death on 21 November 2012 in Yerwada jail, Pune.
Though eight years has passed since the dreadful attack took place, the pain can still be felt.
3. On 26th November, 2008, at around 9:20pm two gunmen opened fire at Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway Station, which is said to be world's busiest railway station.
The attackers including Ajmal Kasab, who was arrested later on, killed 58 people and injured 104 and fled the scene as the security forces arrived on the spot. The terrorists killed eight police officers in addition to many pedestrians.
While the attackers headed towards Cama Hospital, the hospital staff locked all the patient wards after which those two terrorists opened fire on the vehicle in a lane next to the hospital. In the cross fire Police officers Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar, Ashok Kamte and Tukaram Omble was killed. One of the terrorists was shot dead and Kasab was wounded.
4. An assistant sub-inspector of Mumbai Police, Tukaram Omble, laid down his life for the nation during the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
A retired army man, who had joined the Mumbai police, played a very important role in arresting Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor amongst the terrorists behind 26/11 attack.
While Kasab was firing at the police officers in order to flee after being injured, the unarmed Tukaram Omble held onto the rifle of the injured Ajmal Kasab, enabling other officers to apprehend him, during which Kasab fired several shots at Omble which apparently resulted in his death.
The Indian government honored Omble, on 26 January 2009, with the Ashoka Chakra – for the most conspicuous bravery or an act of daring or pre-eminent valour or self-sacrifice.
5. Within an hour, other attacks occurred at four other locations- Leopold's Restaurant, Oberoi Hotel, Nariman House and Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel.
A popular restaurant and bar on Colaba Causeway in South Mumbai, Leopold's Restaurant which is a famous restaurant for foreigners, was one of the first targets of terrorists. Two gunmen started firing in the cafe in the evening, killing around 10 people including some foreigners and injured many people.
Two taxis were also exploded in the city the same evening by the use of time bombs.
While the first explosion occurred at 22:40 at Vile Parle, killing the driver and a passenger, the second explosion took place at Wadi Bunder between 22:20 and 22:25 killing around three people including the taxi driver and injuring over 15 others.
6. The next was the Nariman house in Colaba also known as the Mumbai Chabad House. Two terrorists captured the building and several residents were made hostage.
While the police asked the local residents to stay in, they evacuated the adjacent buildings and a cross firing took place between the terrorists and the police.
During the first day, 9 hostages were rescued from the first floor. The attackers also threw a grenade into a nearby lane, causing no casualties. The second day as the building was stormed by NSG commandos, both the attackers were killed along with one NSG commando Havaldar Gajender Singh Bisht after a long battle.
7. Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka Holtzberg, who was six months pregnant, were murdered with four other hostages inside the house by the attackers.
Two of the renowned hotels of the city Taj Mahal Hotel and Oberoi Trident were also amongst the target of the terrorists.
While one explosion was reported at the Oberoi Trident, there were around six explosions at the Taj Mahal Hotel.As large fire broke out at the Taj Mahal hotel and authorities began escorting people out of the building an hour later. According to a leading news channel, all hostages were freed from the hotel by the morning of November 27.
8. Hafiz Saeed, leader of Jama'at-ud-Da'wah is said to be the alleged master mind behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Hafiz Saeed who operated mainly from Pakistan planned and executed the entire 26/11 Mumbai attack plan.
Though a case was going on in Pakistan against Hafiz Saeed, he was acquitted by the Pakistan Court.
Though Indian Government has constantly alleging about Hafiz Saeed being involved in the deadly 2008 Mumbai Attacks, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit said that Hafiz was a free citizen and has the liberty to roam around freely in Pakistan.
He also asserted that no case is pending against him.
9. While both the hotels were surrounded by Rapid Action Force personnel and Marine Commandos (MARCOS), the National Security Guards (NSG) also played a very important role during 26/11 attacks.
Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan of the NSG was killed during the rescue of Commando Sunil Yadav, who was hit in the leg by a bullet during the rescue operations at Taj.
Unnikrishnan was the team commander of 51 SAG deployed in the operation at the hotel to rescue the hostages and entered the hotel in a group of 10 commandos. As the team descended the stairs, they suspected perpetrators on the third floor where a few women were held as hostages in a room which was locked from the inside. After breaking open the door, the cross firing occurred during which Unnikrishnan's colleague, Commando Sunil Yadav was injured.
While Unnikrishan engaged the perpetrators in a firefight, he arranged for Yadav's. In the cross firing, Sandeep Unnikrishnan was shot from the back and he later succumbed to his injuries.
10. There were several hostages dtill held captive in Taj Hotel by two terrorists which included foreigners as well.
Around 31 people were killed in Taj including Ralph Burkei, a German TV producer and over 30 people were killed in the attack at Oberoi Trident.
The final operation at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel was completed by the NSG commandos at 08:00 on 29 November, killing all the attackers and resulting in the conclusion of the attacks.
The NSG rescued 250 people from the Oberoi, 300 from the Taj and 60 people from Nariman House.
While its been six years to the Mumbai attacks, the memories of those who lost their lives in the attack, and the brave hearts who laid their life for their nations and their valor will never fade away from the memory of every Indian.