Miliband: Mumbai outrage 'attack on all of us'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The terrorist attack in Mumbai was "an attack on all of us", Foreign Secretary David Miliband said tonight as he expressed sympathy with the family of the one Briton confirmed dead.

"This is a callous, inhuman and indiscriminate attack on people of all races and all religions," he told reporters.

"This attack in Mumbai is an attack on all of us because democracy in India is vibrant and because Mumbai is one of the world's most diverse cities.

"The most terrible thing is that we do have one confirmed British fatality. Obviously our hearts go out to the family of the victim and we are determined to do all we can to support those who are currently in hospital."

They numbered more than the seven reported earlier, he indicated.

"The number of injured has risen from that of this morning. It is not running away from that of this number, but it is higher than that."

A team of Foreign Office and Metropolitan Police security officials had arrived in the Indian city, he told reporters, adding: "All of the resources of the Foreign Office are now deployed to ensure that we give the most appropriate response to this situation."

Mr Miliband said the attacks bore some of the hallmarks of al-Qa'ida but stressed it was too early to know whether groups affiliated to the international Islamist terror gang were involved.

"I think it is very premature to start talking about links to al-Qa'ida," said Mr Miliband. "Some of the names of groups being circulated at the moment are not al-Qa'ida affiliated, but that can't be taken as a definitive view.

"We do know that the fact that these were coordinated attacks, that they were attacks on travel centres as well as on hotels, bears some hallmarks of al-Qa'ida, but equally that doesn't mean that this was an al-Qa'ida attack."

Mr Miliband said the Foreign Office had been able to make contact by phone with some people being held as hostages in Mumbai, and said he was not prepared to offer an assurance that all those within the hotels were safe.

"I think anyone standing in the comfort of the Foreign Office in London who says that someone in a hotel under siege in Mumbai is safe is fooling the British public and I don't want to say that," he said.

Asked if officials had been able to speak to hostages, he replied: "There is an ability for make contact with hostages and for them to make contact with us.

"Nothing I say must compromise their position. The most important message that must go out is that we want to support the Indian authorities in every way possible, in helping to bring the siege to an end and to support the British nationals who are there in what are potentially terrifying situations."

Mr Miliband said the indiscriminate nature of the attack meant that the Britons involved included tourists, business visitors and people visiting family.

He said that 1,200 calls had been made to a helpline set up in the basement of the Foreign Office for British residents concerned about family and friends in Mumbai, some of whom had been matched up with individuals identified in the Indian city.

Consular officials have visited all the hospitals in Mumbai to identify British nationals, some of whom are "in a very serious condition", Mr Miliband said.

The British High Commission in Delhi has set up a special command centre in Mumbai's British Council library, where victims are able to prepare to fly home to the UK at Foreign Office expense.