Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Targets of Terror

Most people believe the next terrorist attack in India could be on the Taj Mahal Hotel, The Ritz Carlton or the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai.

I didn’t learn about this until after I returned from my India trip and stayed at the Grand Hyatt.

The date of November 26 has become a symbol of terror in India much like 9-11 is in the US. The day before I arrived in Mumbai, the sole gunman captured alive during last November 26's terrorist attacks in Mumbai confessed and plead guilty in an Indian court of law. Police say 21-year-old Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and his partners shot dead 58 people during an assault on Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the city's main train station. A total of 12 charges have been filed against him, including murder and waging war against India.

So going into India one could rightly assume that security would be tight…but just how tight is the question.

After picking up my bags at the airport, my taxi took me to the Grand Hyatt and we arrived about 2 a.m. It didn't take long to see that security is in full force.

The hotel was protected by an outpost or security checkpoint. Two armed guards put up their hand for us to stop. One guard grabs a mirror-reflector pole and runs it under the car, looking for a possible bomb. The other guard taps the front of the hood and the driver releases the hood and the trunk. This may be a new experience to me, but for the driver and guards, it has become routine.

We drive up to the front of the hotel and are greeted by more security guards, some armed with rifles. Before entering the hotel, your bags are hoisted through an X-ray machine and of course, you need to walk through a metal detector. After passing through the metal detector, I spot a German Sheperd attack dog.

I walk up to the reception desk and a pretty young Indian woman working the night shift says, "Welcome to Mumbai."

Every car and every person go through the same security drill during my three day visit. The Grand Hyatt is a beautiful hotel, but you can’t help but think what may be lurking in the shadows.



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