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Obama, at scene of Mumbai attacks, says U.S. and India 'stand united'

At the Taj Mahal hotel, the president issues a defiant statement to terrorists and reaches out to survivors of the attacks there two years ago.

November 07, 2010|By Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Mumbai, India — One of the first people President Obama met after checking in Saturday to the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower here was Karambir Singh Kang, the hotel's manager.

Kang lost his wife, Niti, and their two sons in the terrorist attack on the hotel and other sites in Mumbai two years ago, but then went on to help save others.

Obama made the refurbished hotel the first stop of his two-week trip to Asia in order to convey a message to plotters of that attack and others.

"In our determination to give our people a future of security and prosperity," he said, "the United States and India stand united."

Obama spoke with a group of hotel employees and other survivors gathered in a hotel courtyard shortly after checking in. He is the first foreign head of state to stay at the Taj Mahal since the attacks on Nov. 26, 2008, an event known in India by the shorthand 26/11.

In a scene some local newscasters compared to President Bush's bullhorn declaration from the rubble of the World Trade Center in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Obama then stood in a plaza overlooking the Arabian Sea to issue his own defiant message.

"By striking the places where our countries and people come together," he said, "those who perpetrated these horrific attacks hoped to drive us apart … [but] today the United States and India are working together more closely than ever to keep our people safe."

Two years ago, millions watched horrific images of smoke pouring from the windows of the hotel, part of a coordinated attack on several sites that left 166 people dead. India blames a Pakistani militant group linked in the past to Pakistan's powerful security agency for masterminding the attack.

Fully renovated, the Taj Mahal hotel now stands as a symbol of India's resilience. Obama wanted to recognize India's rejection of terrorism, aides said.

"Mumbai is a symbol of the incredible energy and optimism that defines India in the 21st century," the president said. "And ever since those horrific days two years ago, the Taj has been the symbol of the strength and the resilience of the Indian people."

cparsons@latimes.com

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