Indians mourn their innocent loved ones

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The Independent Online

One was a hotel manager, another was a waitress. There was also a police chief who rushed without pause into the face of danger. But in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai massacres, amid the reports of foreigners being targeted, these Indian victims were almost forgotten.

At the Taj Mahal hotel, the general manager Karambir Kang was working tirelessly to help hundreds of terrified guests, after gunmen turned the luxurious haunt into a killing field. His wife, Neeti, and two children, Uday and Samar, were barricaded into their residential suite on the sixth floor of the 105-year-old building, hunkered down like many patrons, praying for the ordeal to end.

But as flames took hold of part of the locked-down hotel , on Thursday afternoon, Mrs Kang apparently called her husband to say the fire was approaching their room. Details of why police or rescue crews were unable to reach them and take them to safety were unclear but Mr Kang never spoke to his family again. His wife and his two children were burned to death.

And what of the Parsi woman who had worked as a waitress in a restaurant at the Taj for more than 20 years? As she served dinner on Wednesday night, customers watched in horror as the woman – her identity not revealed – was shot at point-blank range by the gunmen who stormed in. "The last time I met her, she was talking about how she wanted to give up the job as she felt she worked too much," said Chhaya Momaya, a life coach, who had been due to go to the restaurant but was late. She added: "The last I heard, she'd been admitted to some hospital. I just hope she survives."

There were no such hopes for Hemant Karkare. While meeting a senior Maharashtra state official on Wednesday evening, the head of Mumbai's anti-terrorism squad received word of the events unfolding in the city. He rushed to the scene with three colleagues. Two gunmen attacked their vehicle, killing Mr Karkare and two others. The fourth policeman was wounded but survived. The gunmen then stole the officers' vehicle and sped off, eventually to be intercepted and killed.

At the Taj hotel, Abhijeet Dalvi was also doing his job. A visa assistant with the Italian consulate in Mumbai, Mr Dalvi had just returned home when he learnt of the attacks. He and his boss rushed back to the hotel, where they had just left 13 members of an Italian delegation. "One of the members called me to say they could hear gunshots and were scared," he told the DNA India newspaper.

With militants in control of the building, the two men slipped in through a rear entrance and discovered that the delegation members were hiding in a kitchen. They were able to lead them out to safety.

Sandra Samuel, a maid at the Chabad House Jewish Centre that was seized by the gunmen, also saved a life. She locked herself and another member of staff inside a first-floor room after she saw a "young man wearing a T-shirt firing a rifle on the staircase".

Ms Samuel, 44, who had worked at the centre for five years, did not step outside until Thursday morning. When she did, she saw the rabbi, Gavriel Holtzberg, and two other Israelis "lying unconscious" in a corridor. Next to the rabbi was his two-year-old son, Moshe, who was crying loudly.

"I just picked up Moshe and ran down without even checking on the others," Ms Samuel said later.

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