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Terrorists asked us to set Oberoi on fire: 26/11 witness

Last Updated: Thursday, September 24, 2009 - 09:26

Mumbai: A staff of hotel Oberoi on Wednesday told a special court hearing the Mumbai attacks case that he was held hostage by two of the terrorists and was forced to set afire furnitures in a restaurant at gunpoint after which he escaped from their clutches.

Recounting the horrific incident on November 26 last year, the eye witness, Pradeep Ramamurthy Manglorkar, said he was on duty at Kandhar restaurant of the hotel on the ill-fated day when he and other staff members heard sound of firing.

"We came out and saw two gunmen firing outside another restaurant "Tiffin."

Immediately, we returned and closed the main door of our restaurant while asking the guests to leave from the rear door," the witness told Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.

"Just then the terrorists fired at our door and barged into the restaurant holding AK-47 guns in their hands. `Do not move`, they said, and took me and another staff member, Jordan Pereira, hostage. By then others -- staff members and guests had escaped from the back door," the witness said.

The duo asked both hostages to pour liquor on tables and flung a lighter at Jordan asking him to set them afire. When the lighter failed to work, one of the terrorists shouted saying "hurry up, use the match box we do not have much time".

Jordan followed the instructions and torched the tables but the match box slipped from his hands and he sustained burn injuries. He cried and told gunmen "mera hath jal gaya" (my hands are burnt). They were angry and fired three rounds at Jordan and he collapsed, the witness said.

"The terrorists then turned towards me and told me to set afire tables. I was nervous but obeyed their instructions.

Thereafter they told me to take them to a place where VIPs could be found," the witness told judge M L Tahaliyani.

"I took them to a lift and pressed the button. As we were waiting, one of the terrorists lobbed a hand grenade behind him and sat on the ground holding his ears. Another gunman also lobbed a grenade in a similar fashion," he said.

"Before the grenades could explode the lift arrived and I jumped into it. The terrorists fired at me but I escaped in the lift," the witness said.

The witness gave description of both the terrorists saying they were aged about 25 years and of medium built. On January 6, he was shown 12 bodies at JJ Hospital morgue and among them he identified bodies of the two terrorists.

Asked by prosecutor Nikam whether he would be able to identify the terrorists in a film captured on Close Circuit television (CCTV), the witness replied in the affirmative.

The prosecutor then sought the court`s permission to screen the film tomorrow in the presence of the witness. The court then allowed the screening of the film.

In another development, two witnesses told the court that they have done inquest panchnama of bodies of two terrorists.

According to prosecution, terrorists Fahadullah and Abdul Rehman Chhota had killed 35 persons including nine foreigners and injured 24 others at Hotel Oberoi.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, September 24, 2009 - 09:26
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