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Did any terrorist escape? Is anyone checking?

Last updated on: December 03, 2008 15:59 IST
Among the many unanswered questions left behind after the brazen terrorist attacks on India's financial capital, add another: Could some of the terrorists or their associates have escaped under the guise of being guests at the hotels under siege?

Ninety-three guests were rescued from the Oberoi. When they emerged, the hotel staff announced their names. Those who had friends or relatives there could leave with them. The rest were taken to the Four Seasons hotel.

Here's the catch: No one knows how many left with relatives or friends.

At the Taj Mahal hotel, the fire brigade rescued a few guests through windows. A few came down the fire escape with South African commandos who were sent as advanced security for the South African cricket team which eventually never arrived.

One guest, it was learned, came out of the back door and walked away into the night. The police, however, refused to confirm or deny that information.

Three is no corroborated count of how many came out and when.

All the hostages who were rescued were first sent to the police club behind the Azad Maidan police station, where they were interviewed by city Crime Branch and Anti-Terrorism Squad officers on the first floor.

Inspector Manik Singh Patil, station officer at the Colaba police station, told rediff.com: "At that time, this police station was not secure. Therefore, we sent them to the Azad Maidan police station. If you want a list of the rescued people, you can ask them."

Sub Inspector Raghunath Mahale of the Azad Maidan police station explained, "We just provided the space and assistance. It is not our case. The case is being dealt by the crime branch. You can ask them."

He added that the names and addresses of all the hostages had been recorded.

Unit One of the Mumbai police's Crime Branch is in the police commissioner's compound opposite the city's famed Crawford Market. An officer there -- who refused to identify himself -- said, "We have made a list of the rescued and the ATS also has a list."

He said the police had not photographed the released guests.

When asked if the police had compared the list they had with the guest lists at the Taj and the Oberoi-Trident, he said, "At that time it was not possible to get the guest lists from those two hotels. Now we are busy with more important things than comparing guest lists."

The police also insist there were 10 terrorists.

Devan Bharati, deputy commissioner of police, crime detection, was emphatic that there were no more terrorists. He said conspiracy theorists rumour mongers were unnecessarily scaring the city.

When asked about the death toll -- because different numbers are being thrown up by different sources -- he said, "Please see the police Web site and use that figure only."

Complete coverage: Terror strikes at Mumbai's heart

A Ganesh Nadar in Mumbai