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What Obama told 26/11 survivors

Last updated on: November 6, 2010 16:25 IST

What Obama told 26/11 survivors

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United States President Barack Obama on Saturday said his decision to stay in the Taj Hotel is a powerful message against terrorism and demanded that the perpetrators of the horrific Mumbai attacks should be brought to justice.

Beginning his three-day maiden visit to India by paying homage to the victims of 26/11 attacks, he said he was looking forward to deepening partnership in counter-terrorism during his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Accompanied by his wife Michelle, he signed the visitors' book, looked at the plaque on which the names of 26/11 victims are engraved and delivered a six-minute speech in which he paid tribute to the people of Mumbai and India, hailing their resolve and resilience.

"There has been a great commentary on our decision to begin our visit here, in this dynamic city at this historic hotel. Those who have asked whether this is intended to send a message, my answer is simply: absolutely," Obama told a gathering that included kin of victims and staffers of the hotel who braved the 2008 attack.


Image: US President Barack Obama's handwritten note is seen after signing a book during his visit to the 26/11 memorial at the Taj Mahal Hotel
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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'Taj is a symbol of the strength of Indian people'

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He made a special reference to general manager of the Hotel Karamveer Kang who continued to work at the hotel during the 60 hours of mayhem despite losing his family. "Taj is a symbol of the strength of Indian people," said the US President.

Obama also talked about the role of an Indian nanny who saved the life of a toddler, who lost his Jewish parents during the attack at the Chabad House.

 "We will never forget the awful images of the 26/11 attacks, the flames from Taj Hotel that lit up the skies on those four days of November, 2008," the US President said with the Gateway of India forming the backdrop.

"We today, US and India are working together, more closely than ever to deepening counter-terrorism (cooperation), to keep our people safe," he said, adding the two countries have been sharing intelligence to avoid more attacks and demanding that the perpetrators be brought to justice.


Image: US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama view the 26/11 memorial at the Taj Hotel
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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India visit an 'extraordinary honour'

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In this context, he said he was looking forward to meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi.

Obama said his visit to Mumbai was a "clear message that in our determination to give to our people a future of security and prosperity, the US and India stand united."

Describing his visit to India as an 'extraordinary honour', he said he wanted to tell the people of India "how much we are looking forward to spending the next three days in this remarkable country and deepening the partnership between the two countries."

 


Image: US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama write in the visitor's book
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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'The perpetrators wanted to pit believers of different faiths'

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Recalling the November 2008 attacks in which five US citizens were among those killed, he said Americans watched and grieved along with Indian people.

"The resolve and resilience of Indian people during those attacks stood in stark contrast to the savagery of the terrorists who came to kill innocent civilians that day," the US President said. He noted that during the attack, strangers had helped strangers; men in uniform stopped the carnage and Taj Hotel staffers made ultimate sacrifices to save others.

"The perpetrators wanted to pit believers of different faiths against one another because here in Mumbai diversity, that is India's strength, was the focus point (of terrorists)," Obama said. "Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jews and Muslims, protecting each other, saving each other, living the common truth of all the world's great religions that we are all children of God," he said.

 


Image: US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama view the 26/11 memorial at the Taj Hotel
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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'Those who attacked Mumbai wanted to demoralise the city'

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Paying tributes to the spirit of this city, he said, "those who attacked Mumbai wanted to demoralise the city and the country. But they failed because the very next day Mumbaikars came back to work, hotel staff reported for their shifts and others returned to their businesses. Within weeks, the hotel was once again welcoming guests."

He said, "By striking the places where countries and people come together, those who perpetrated these attacks hoped to drive us apart."

After his brief address, Obama and his wife mixed with the gathering, shaking hands with some of them and talking to the families of the victims.


Image: Media crowd round US President Barack Obama's handwritten note at the 26/11 memorial
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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