Both the White House and President-elect Barack Obama condemned today's series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India, the first major terrorist incident since Obama’s election.
At least 80 people were killed and 200 injured when gunmen opened fire with machine guns and grenades at a Mumbai train station, a crowded restaurant and a series of hotels, according to reports. An Indian state official indicated that the death toll is likely to rise. Some early reports indicate that Westerners were the primary targets.
Plumes of smoke were rising from the top of the Taj Hotel, according to a Reuters dispatch, which said shots were still being sounded.
“President-Elect Obama strongly condemns today's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and his thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the people of India,” Obama spokesman Brooke Anderson said. “These coordinated attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of terrorism. The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks. We stand with the people of India, whose democracy will prove far more resilient than the hateful ideology that led to these attacks.”
The White House has yet to issue a formal statement, but White House spokesman Tony Fratto made clear the Bush Administration’s reaction.
"We condemn these attacks and the loss of innocent life," Fratto said, adding that "we continue to seek more information."
Bush has said he would consult Obama on any major decisions and White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Tuesday that the outgoing and incoming presidents are in frequent contact.
The White House signaled earlier this month that it was concerned that such an attack may take place on American soil during the transition. Perino said that “we know that Al Qaeda and others try to test a new administration.”
“I don't know of anything specific,” she added, “but we do know that this is just a heightened period of concern.”
Vice President-elect Joe Biden caught flack for a similar warning on the campaign trail.
“Watch,” Biden said. “We're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy,” meaning Obama.
Republican presidential nominee John McCain seized on those comments as proof that Obama was not prepared to be commander in chief.
Police in New York City Tuesday bolstered security on trains and subways after a government warning of a possible attack. Rep. Peter King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, told the Associated Press that the government has "very real specifics," about the plot, which he said "certainly involves suicide bombing attacks on the mass transit system in and around New York."
He deemed the warning "plausible," adding that "there's no evidence yet that it's in the process of being carried out."
Both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush faced domestic terrorist attacks within their first year, but not during the transition.