One of the terrorists — it is not clear which one — came rushing down the fourth floor when he was told that a police jeep was making its way to the hospital. This was the first sign that the terrorists were also carrying phones (a probe is now on on how they obtained SIM cards which got activated so quickly. There are conflicting reports of the SIMs having come from Vienna and New York and another of them being from Delhi and West Bengal.) Then, it didn’t matter which numbers they were using. All that mattered was that they could communicate and so were able to shoot dead ATS chief Hemant Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and ACP Ashok Kamte. Mumbai’s three top cops died before they had a chance to pick up their guns. Arun Jadhav, a constable who took four bullets and fell down, given up as dead, was to soon emerge as an important eyewitness.
The financial capital of the country was under siege. Had somebody informed the PM?
JADHAV TELLS a chilling account of what the two did after throwing the bodies of Karkare, Salaskar and Kamte out of the Qualis in whichthey lay slumped. According to Jadhav, who is now recuperating in an intensive care unit, the two took control of the vehicle and started driving towards the Metro theatre junction, all the time indiscriminately firing at the people on the road. The policemen standing on the other side of the road initially thought that their officers were in the Qualis; only to realise quickly that it had been hijacked. In the midst of the firing, there was another loud sound — this one signaled that the Qualis itself had a tyre burst. Unfazed, the foot didn’t come off the accelerator till a parked Skoda with four men in it came in handy. Seeing the men cocking AKs, the four leapt out of the Skoda and offered to surrender themselves but, Kasav and his accomplice seemed like men in a hurry. Khedkar, a police sub-inspector was by now following the terrorists. He quickly took the number of the Skoda from the four who could not believe their luck, and passed it on to the control room. When a police post tried to stop the car near Girgaum Chowpatty, Ismail, who was in the driving seat, tried taking a sharp U-turn. He hit a median and this gave the police their chance of finally opening up. In the duel between the .303 and the AK 47s, one policeman, Tukaram Umbale, was killed and so was Ismail. According to Khedkar, they had also assumed Kasav to be dead, but discovered on reaching the hospital that while he had been injured, the bullets had only grazed him. Kasav was to be the only one who would survive the 60-hour battle that he had begun at CST.
Kasav could only have wondered about what the others — they had broken up into pairs after getting off the speed boat — were up to. Unknown to him, at roughly the same time as the CST shootout, two other gunmen were standing at the entrance to Leopold Café, one of South Mumbai’s open air beer and snacks joint that attracts both locals and foreign tourists alike. It was business as usual at the Café and a waiter invited the two in. Their backpacks were larger than most, but that is now hindsight. Surveying the restaurant that was set up way back in 1871, the two nodded to the waiter, and seconds later, opened fire on diners who nibbled on food as they watched the cricket match play itself out on television. Mehmood Patel, who was standing outside the Leopold, remembers the two terrorists casually walking out of the Café and taking the lane for Taj Hotel, only a stone’s throw away.