Update V: Diamantaires at Taj and Oberoi Hotels During Terrorist Attack

The landmark Taj Mahal Palace, one of several buildings under attack by terrorists on Nov. 26, was hosting a Diamond Trading Company event, according to first-hand accounts received by JCK. Diamantaires were also staying at the Oberoi Hotel Mumbai which was under attack. According to the reports received by JCK, everyone is safe.

According to Stephanie Piper, spokesperson for London-based H. Goldie & Co., a number of diamantaires were in India for year-end meetings with the Diamond Trading Company.  She told JCK on Nov. 27 that the meetings—held at the Taj Hotel—had just concluded, and DTC managing director Varda Shine had left the hotel with colleagues, headed for dinner at a nearby restaurant. She is believed to be safe.

H. Goldie’s Mark Boston, however, had just gone upstairs to his room. He was barricaded there with his wife, Milly, as per hotel instructions. All guests were told to remain barricaded in their rooms, but the Boston’s room was in the section of the hotel that was burning. They found a fire escape, ran to the Diplomat Hotel behind the Taj, and contacted clients who were able to get through the police barricades and come to their aid. They are safe at the client’s home.

Navin and Monica Chandra, employees of H. Goldie, were dining in the Taj restaurant when the attacks occurred. They, along with other diners, fled through the kitchens where hotel staff hid them in a walk-in refrigerator. They remained there for about five hours, said Piper, until Indian army commandos rescued them. Even as they escaped, however, said Piper, one of the diners was gunned down by a terrorist sniper. The Chandras, however, are safe.

In a bit of wry, relief-driven humor, Piper said, “We had one party getting a little too hot, and another getting a little too cold.”

Piper also said members of another London-based diamond broker, W. Nagel, were staying at the Oberoi. Willy Nagel, his daughter Toni, and some staff were barricaded in their rooms there till Indian commandos came and told them to leave. They are safe, Piper reports.

The Taj Mahal Palace is one of the most well-known hotels in India and is a popular spot for members of the jewelry industry.

On Nov. 26, Margaret De Young, American Gem Society deputy executive director, who is on vacation in Kolkata, told JCK that based on several reports, the DTC was holding a reception at the hotel when the violence broke out.

De Young added that according to sources in India, Dilip Mehta of Rosy Blue was interviewed via telephone and has reportedly said all attendees at the reception are safe.

New information: Among those who were murdered in the attacks were Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah of the Chabad house in Mumbai, along with four other Israeli hostages.

A posting on the Israeli Diamond Industry portal referred to the Chabad house as “a home away from home” for dozens of Israeli diamantaires who regularly visited the site during their frequent business trips to Mumbai.

Martin Rapaport of The Rapaport Group and Rapaport India express, in an e-mail expressing his and his company’s condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the attacks, said:

“We deeply mourn the loss of all the victims and especially our good friends, the Rabbi of Mumbai Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah, who were murdered in their synagogue. We note the exceptionally courageous leadership of the staff at the Taj Mahal Hotel, our home away from home.”

Rapaport continued: “We express our shock and profound grief over the brutal and murderous attack on innocent children, women and men. We recognize that this attack is not just against the people of Mumbai and our international community. This is an attack against the fundamental values of democratic, free and fair society in Mumbai and in the entire world. Importantly, this was an attack against the spirit of Mumbai.

“The Rapaport Group pledges its support for the spirit of Mumbai and we will continue to expand our offices and presence in Mumbai. We will continue to support the Mumbai diamond industry through these challenging times.

“The Rapaport Group thanks G-D that all of our 40 team members in Mumbai have survived the attacks safe and sound. We thank our friends who called in their support and we acknowledge the great courage of all those who took part in the brave and difficult rescue operations.”

The Diamond Manufacturers & Importers Association of America on Friday sent a statement expressing “its collective horror and dismay regarding the shocking acts of terrorism directed at the city of Mumbai. We take comfort in the belief that our colleagues in the diamond industry have had the good fortune of escaping harm.  The DMIA extends our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the innocent victims who have lost their lives, and condemns all acts of terrorism which violate the foundation of humanity.”

Vasant Mehta, chairman of the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council, in a statement Thursday strongly condemned the “cowardly acts of terrorism in Mumbai. Saluting the brave officers helping us overcome this crisis, he said the industry thoughts are with victims, and hopes that their families find the strength to overcome their monumental loss.”

New information: In addition, Bharat Diamond Bourse and Mumbai Diamond Merchants Associations offered condolences and prayers to victims of Mumbai terror attacks on Nov. 29 at 5:30 p.m. at Prasad Chambers, Mumbai. A gathering of more than 500 people observed a two minute silence as a mark of respect to those who were killed in the terror attack.

As of Nov. 28 at 7 a.m., according to media reports, many hostages have been freed. Nine attackers were killed and nine were captured. There are still scattered media reports of gunfire and explosions at the Taj hotel and other locations.

On Nov. 27, at about 2:30 p.m. EST, The Associated Press reported that a state official says the siege has ended at the Taj Mahal hotel and the last three gunmen there have been killed. The official also said eight hostages have been freed from the Mumbai headquarters of the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group, Chabad Lubavitch, the AP reports.

According to media reports, approximately 20 to 25 heavily armed gunmen at about 10: 30 p.m. Wednesday(local time) stormed the Taj and at Oberoi hotels, a popular tourist attraction, and a crowded train station in 10 coordinated attacks in India’s financial capital, killing approximately 119 people and wounding about 288.

Early into the seige, large plumes of smoke were seen rising from the top of the Taj Mahal Palace and heavy firing could be heard, a witness reportedly said.

It is reportedly believed that Westerners, particular Americans and Brits, were being targeted.

The attackers are reportedly believed to be Muslim militants armed with automated weapons and grenades. 

In addition to the areas already listed, sites under attack included the Chhatra-pathi Shivaji Terminus, a movie theater, a restaurant, and a police station.

Taj Mahal PalacePhoto credits: Front Reuters, above Getty Images