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Bush Offers Support To India After Attacks

President George W. Bush on Saturday pledged full U.S. support to India as it investigates the deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai, saying the killers "will not have the final word."

The more than 60-hour siege ended early Saturday as Indian commandos killed the last three gunmen at Mumbai's historic Taj Mahal hotel. The battle ended with several explosions and one of the gunmen falling from a hotel window, as CBS News' Celia Hatton reported tonight.

Commandos then entered the hotel to search for live ammunition the gunmen had intentionally left behind.

"We are going through the entire hotel, through the corridors, through the rooms. Until we are able to check each and every room, I will not say that my operation is over," Jyoti Krishan Dutt, director general of India's National Security Guard commando unit, told Hatton.

Bush spoke at the White House after returning from the Camp David presidential retreat where he spent Thanksgiving and monitored the rampage. The coordinated assaults left nearly 200 people dead, including six Americans, and raised tensions between India and neighboring Pakistan, two nuclear-armed rivals.

"The killers who struck this week are brutal and violent," Bush said on the South Lawn with first lady Laura Bush at his side. "But terror will not have the final word. The people of India are resilient. The people of India are strong. They have built a vibrant, multiethnic democracy. They can withstand this trial."

Before leaving Camp David in the mountains of Maryland, he held an hour-long video-teleconference with U.S. diplomats in India. He said his administration had kept President-elect Barack Obama informed since the siege began Wednesday.

"We pledge the full support of the United States as India investigates these attacks, brings the guilty to justice and sustains its democratic way of life," Bush said.

"The leaders of India can know that nations around the world support them in the face of this assault on human dignity. And as the people of the world's largest democracy recover from these attacks, they can count on the people of the world's oldest democracy to stand by their side."

Those participating in the videoconference included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; David Mulford, the U.S. ambassador to India; Paul Folmsbee, consul general at the U.S. consulate in Mumbai; and members of Bush's national security team.

"President Bush thanked our ambassador and our consul general for all the work they've done to help Americans affected by the terrorists," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

Obama called Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday night to offer condolences and was monitoring the situation.

The attacks killed at least 195 people, including 18 foreigners, in India's financial capital, the deadliest episode in India since 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai killed 257 people. Officials said the death toll is likely to rise as more bodies are found in the hotels.

Officials said they believe that just 10 well-prepared gunmen were behind the attacks that brought the city of 18 million to its knees for three days.

"Nine were killed and one was captured," Maharshta state Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told reporters. "We are interrogating him."

Deshmukh said the attackers arrived by sea.

On Saturday the Indian navy said it was investigating whether a trawler found drifting off the coast of Mumbai, with a bound corpse on board, was used in the attack.

(Courtesy of Synchronicity)
At left, Alan Scherr, 58, of Virginia, with his wife Kia. Scherr and his daughter Naomi, 13, were killed in the cafe at the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai during the terrorist seige there this week. The Scherrs were in Mumbai as part of a spiritual retreat.

Navy spokesman Capt. Manohar Nambiar said the trawler, named Kuber, had been found Thursday and was brought to Mumbai. Officials said they believe the boat had sailed from a port in the neighboring state of Gujarat.

Indian security officers believe many of the gunmen may have reached the city using a black and yellow rubber dinghy found near the site of the attacks.

FBI agents were en route to India on Saturday. A second group of investigators was on alert to join the first team if necessary. The State Department warned U.S. citizens still in the city that their lives remain at risk.

"The FBI continues to monitor the situation in Mumbai and the Counterterrorism Division is reviewing all of the information and intelligence available," bureau spokesman Richard Kolko said.

A previously unknown Muslim group with a name suggesting origins inside India claimed responsibility. But because the sole surviving gunman was Pakistani, Indian officials pointed a finger of blame at Pakistan, which vehemently defended itself against allegations that it was involved in the attacks.

(Courtesy of Synchronicity)
At left, Naomi Scherr, 13, of Virginia. Scherr and her father Alan Scherr, 58, were among at least six Americans killed in the Mumbai terror attacks Nov. 27-29, 2008. They were in India on a spiritual retreat.

Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, said in a statement that his country is "confronting the menace of terrorism with great vigor." Haqqani insisted "it is unfair to blame Pakistan or Pakistanis for these acts of terrorism even before an investigation is undertaken."

The U.S. is concerned about a potential flare-up between India and Pakistan. To ease tensions, intelligence officials are searching for clues that might identify the attackers even as Indian officials claim "elements in Pakistan" were involved.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said some "signatures of the attack" were consistent with the work of Pakistani militant groups known as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed that have fought Indian troops in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir and are reported to be linked to al Qaeda. But the official emphasized it was premature to pinpoint who was responsible for the attacks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.

But analysts say the attackers differ in style from anyone they've studied before. "In most conventional suicide terrorists, there will be some sort of suicidal device that will detonate at the very conclusion of their operation," international security expert Will Geddes told Hatton. "But it would appear that with these individuals, they were going to fight until the bitter end."

The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, said six Americans were killed but did not release their names.

Among the U.S. dead, according to information from organizations to which they belonged, were:

  • Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, and his wife, Rivkah, 28. They were killed in an attack on the ultra-Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement's center in Mumbai, Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin said in New York. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Rivkah Holtzberg only had Israeli citizenship.
  • Bentzion Chroman, an Israeli with dual U.S. citizenship who was visiting the center.
  • Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was visiting the center.
  • Alan Scherr, 58, and daughter Naomi, 13, of Virginia, who died in a cafe Wednesday night. They lived at the Synchronicity Foundation sanctuary about 15 miles southwest of Charlottesville, Va., and were among 25 foundation participants in a spiritual program in Mumbai, according to a spokeswoman for the foundation.

    The dead also included Germans, Canadians, and nationals from Britain, Italy, Japan, China, Thailand, Australia and Singapore.

    The carnage began Wednesday at about 9:20 p.m. with shooters spraying gunfire across the Chhatrapati Shivaji railroad station. For the next two hours, there was an attack roughly every 15 minutes - at the Jewish center, a tourist restaurant, one hotel, then another, and two attacks on hospitals.

    Survivors recalled the terror Saturday.

    "At the time he actually started to fire his gun, I saw him smile. It was just an absolutely unbelievable situation to be in," said Sajjad Karim, a member of the European Parliament and survivor of the attacks.

    Indians also began cremating their dead. In the southern city of Bangalore, black-clad commandos formed an honor guard for the flag-draped coffin of Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was killed in the fighting at the Taj Mahal hotel.

    "He gave up his own life to save the others," Dutt said from Mumbai.