26/11 Mumbai Attacks National Security News Terrorism

26/11 – What Really Happened At Nariman Chabad House

The 26/11 Mumbai Attacks of 2008 were as we have reported earlier a sequel to Spanish Train Bombings of 2004 which were coordinated with a high degree of sophistication. However, during the Mumbai Attacks there were 2 parallel and distinct operations that were carried out.

  1. The attack on Taj, Oberoi, Trident, Leopold and Nariman House along the seashore.
  2. The attack at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Cama Hospital and Rangbhavan Lane in the heart of the city.

The two targets, the ATS Chief Hemant Karkare and the three buildings that were selected, are diagonally opposite in nature and texture. The former is definitely not in favour of either the underworld or the foreign intelligence agencies that want to penetrate into India using the cover of rightwing militant organizations. The latter mentioned targets, Taj and Oberoi hosted ‘distinguished guests’ during the last week of November 2008. Most of them were Diamond Merchants and coordinators of intelligence in South Asia.

Here is an exhaustive account of what really happened at the Nariman House, a centre for disseminating traditional Judaism by the Chabad movement also known as Chabad House, pieced together from facts reported in multiple mainstream news media outlets during the time but largely ignored during investigation and analysis.


The drama started weeks before the terrorist attacks at Nariman House – at a Jewish residential complex in Mumbai run by the Chabad-Lubavitch ultra-orthodox movement.

Reign of violence in Mumbai ends as authorities seize hotel – From CBC News (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

“In a telephone interview with CBC News from outside the centre, freelance journalist Arun Asthhana said there are reports that some of the militants had stayed at a guest house there for up to 15 days before the attacks.

“They had a huge mass of ammunition, arms and food there,” Asthhana said.

But as per official narrative all the terrorists came in by boat. That some stayed there before the attacks seem no longer in question. Later news reports state that the terrorists came to Nariman House posing as Malaysian students and were given lodging. Why Ultra-orthodox Jews would give lodging to these unknown Malaysian Muslim students is baffling; they could have been ‘terrorists’. After all they did not know them or did they?

However, it is well known that those housing quarters are rented only to religious Jews passing through Mumbai, so much so that the Indian Police wanted to know why they were rented to non-Jews in this instance.

Mumbai locals helped us, terrorist tells cops – From Times of India

“Police are trying to find out how Nariman House rooms were given to non-Jews. Police has taken all the records books for verification”

Tense standoff at Nariman House – From Guardian of UK

“Locals said the owners of Nariman House was a Jewish Israeli family who rented out flats to other religious Jews.”


Colaba Terrorists Have Food Stocks For Three Days – From DNA India

“The terrorists came to Colaba on Wednesday evening,” Mukund Shelke, who runs a grocery shop at Colaba Market, said. “Before barging into Nariman House, they had purchased adequate food to last them at least three days,” he said.

“They had purchased around two crates of chicken and liquor worth Rs 25,000 from two shops in Colaba,” another resident Joseph D’Mello said.

Mumbai attack: Was Nariman House the terror hub? – From Mid-Day News

“The role that Nariman House is coming to play in this entire attack drama is puzzling. Last night, residents ordered close to 100 kilograms of meat and other food, enough to feed an army or a bunch of people for twenty days. Shortly thereafter, the ten odd militants moved in, obviously, indicating that the food and meat was ordered, keeping their visit in mind, another cop added.”

Why would any terrorists going to take over a place during a city-wide attack stop for shopping; selecting meat and liquor and other items? Or was this Nariman House a den of commandos watching over the ‘high-profile meeting’ at Taj just a 10 mins walk and overlooking from Nariman house?


According to official narrative all attackers came in by boats.

If so, why they did not stay in Mumbai after spending days scouting the place?

That would have made much more sense.

Why take the risk of being caught crossing the waters?

It was reported that they landed and split into groups with two men going to the office of the ultra-orthodox Jewish group Chabad-Lubavitch which runs Nariman house. There they supposedly held an unknown number of persons hostage, while killing some.

However, eye-witnesses, and the earliest reports, state that all the men from the boat went straight to the Nariman House complex before dispersing to carry out attacks.

Was than there two different teams of terrorists? One that came by boat and the other that was already present in Mumbai days before 26/11?

Mumbai attack: Was Nariman House the terror hub? – From Mid-Day News

“India’s financial capital, Mumbai seems to be going through its longest night for the last two days. Wednesday, 9.40 pm, the affluent south Mumbai was struck by terrorists, at 12 different locations, including the VT station, a hub for all railway trains, to two of the most luxurious hotels, Taj Mahal and Oberoi Trident.

24 hours later, the attention has riveted to these hotels, and a tiny nondescript building, barely a few meters away from the Taj Mahal hotel. Housing a five-storied guest house for Israeli nationals, this building is turning out to be the ‘den’ for the militants.

“I saw 6 to 7 boats coming in on Wednesday evening and about ten people unloaded many bags from these boats and then gradually took them into the building, Nariman House’, Vitthal Tandel, a fisherman in the area said. “The building has many rooms and these are used as guest houses by travelers, largely Israeli residents. None of us know what their names are”, he said.

“Virendra Ghunawat, a television journalist who has been tracking the Nariman House shootout since the time it took place Wednesday night, said even the cops have been cagey about details”.

Tense standoff at Nariman House – From Guardian of UK

“They came by sea, on a small skiff, and made their way in the dark through the narrow streets of old Colaba to the six-storey apartment building called Nariman House. There they stayed – an unknown number of mystery gunmen who besieged the building from the inside.”

Armed Teams Sowed Chaos With Precision – From The New York Times

“When the terrorists landed in front of Mr. Dhanur’s boat, they were just three blocks straight down a narrow lane from Nariman House, a five-storey building housing a Jewish center run by a young Rabbi, Gavriel Holtzberg, and his wife, Rivka, who had moved from New York.

But the attack does not appear to have started there. According to India’s Home Ministry, the first shots were fired at the train station, and soon after that at the Leopold Café.”

The accounts of multiple eyewitnesses and the earliest reports are very clear. The ‘terrorists’ went into (not stormed) Nariman House. However, later reports keep insisting that they ‘stormed’ the house.

That there is the curious case of the only witness who saw the terrorists disembark from the rubber dinghy at Badhwar Park and actually spoke to them, Anita Uddaiya. Despite her proving her reliability as a witness by identifying all six in the morgue, she was not only dropped as a witness, but charged with ‘misleading the investigators’ as a punishment for refusing to change her story under pressure after she was ‘whisked away’ to the US in doubtful circumstances without the knowledge of any Indian officials.

How did she reach US? Who took her there? Was it official sanctioned? Who sanctioned it? If not why wasn’t this aspect probed further? More importantly, what happened to her in US?


Indian commandos storm Mumbai hotels – From the Guardian of UK

“One police officer who encountered the gunmen as they entered the Jewish centre told the Guardian the attackers were “white””

“I went into the building late last night,” he said. “I got a shock because they were white. I was expecting them to look like us. They fired three shots. I fired 10 back.”

Now, Indians know fair skinned Indians and Pakistanis. They meet them every day, especially in Mumbai, where all the upper class Indians congregate. Indians know foreigners and they call Americans and Europeans “foreigners” or “white”. It is easy for an Indian to tell the difference between a fair skinned Indian or Pakistani and a “foreigner”

Other eyewitnesses at other locations also describe the terrorists as “foreign” or fair skinned.

Mumbai attackers create ‘killing zone’ – From BBC

Then, the “foreign looking, fair skinned” men, as Mr Mishra remembers them, simply carried on killing.

They did not look Indian, they looked foreign. One of them, I thought, had blonde hair. The other had a punkish hairstyle. They were neatly dressed,” says Mr Amir.

One of them was even blonde!


Celebrations! Why?

Colaba Terrorists Have Food Stocks For Three Days – From DNA India

“Some residents claimed that the suspects were keeping track of the police’s movements through a television in Nariman House.

“When the news of top police officials getting killed flashed in the television, we heard loud noises from the flat. It seemed they were celebrating,” Anand Raorane, a resident in a building opposite Nariman House, said.”

It is here that Hemanth Karkare and other brilliant officers get killed. Hemanth Karkare was in the process of investigating an explosive case of terrorist activities by army officers and politicians. It is very strange that these exceptionally experienced men would so easily be killed. Some reports say they were ambushed. It was at the time that the news of these men’s demise was announced that sounds of celebration came from the Chabad office.


For a definitive timeline of events leading upto the killing of Karkare refer to 26/11 Timeline: Buildup To The Assassination Of Hemant Karkare.


While the standoff between the security forces and the terrorists in Nariman House was going on an Israeli ‘security officer’ at the Israeli consulate close by was arrested while running to the scene.

Israeli consulate’s Mumbai security chief arrested en route to Chabad House rescue – From the Jerusalem Post

“The security officer at the Israeli consulate in Mumbai was arrested by Indian police as he raced toward the Chabad House last Wednesday after Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg telephoned to say it was under attack.”

Was this ‘attack’ referring to attack by the terrorists or by security forces?

The officer was released from jail a few hours later according to the Jerusalem Post.

Also Indian officials continuously refused Israeli offers to help with the crisis:

India refuses Israeli offer to send commandos – From ZEE News India

“Jerusalem, Nov 28: India has turned down an offer by Israel to send its Crack Commandos to Mumbai, where a Jewish centre has been taken over in the terrorist attack which have claimed so far over 160 lives, media reports said here.”

Here is another very important fact to keep in mind. While the targets of the attack at Nariman House were Jews and that at Taj were mostly Western/European intelligence chiefs; the targets of that at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Cama Hospital and Rangbhavan Lane were all Indians – all randomly fired upon except for Karkare and his team. Was the attack at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus than a diversion to lure in Karkare’s team and ambush them enroute?


According to various police and agencies reports there were ten or fifteen terrorists in all who came by boat.

Mumbai attacks – city fears five terrorists are ‘missing’ – From The Times

“At least five terrorist gunmen might have escaped the carnage in Mumbai and could strike again, it emerged yesterday as a video surfaced showing the capture of the gang’s sole known surviving member.”

“However, a hijacked Indian fishing boat used by the gunmen had equipment for 15 men on board when it was discovered adrift – suggesting that several gunmen could still be at large.”

“Fifteen winter jackets were found, fifteen toothbrushes,” a police source said. “That more terrorists are loose is possible.”

Again there are conflicting reports on the number of terrorists and possible hostages that were in Nariman House. At the end of the siege by security forces, there were six bodies of hostages found. Some reports insist five bodies were found plus two alleged terrorists. This will remain unclear until Indian security personnel who conducted the raid tell their stories.

It would seem from many eyewitness reports and local media that as the standoff continued, there were only two ‘hostages’, the Rabbi and his wife, and the rest were terrorists.

Colaba Terrorists Have Food Stocks For Three Days – From DNA India

“The six terrorists who have made an Israeli family hostage at Nariman House building in Colaba can battle with the security agencies for at least three days without having to worry about food, local residents claimed on Thursday.”

Inside the Taj: Tracking Down the Terrorists – From TIME

“From the vantage point of three Black Cat snipers watching the building, I could see Nariman House’s shattered windows. The couple who own the building are Jewish, giving rise to rumors throughout the day that “Israelis” were somehow involved in the attacks. The other people in the building, including an infant wearing a pink bonnet and green blanket, were held as hostages but released early Thursday.

The last person to leave, a young woman, told authorities that the only remaining hostages were the couple, who had made no sound or movement since the night before. By 5 p.m. they were presumed to be dead, and the Black Cat commandos moved in half an hour later, unleashing a volley of gunshots into the building. By 9:30 p.m. local time, the firing was still going on, and it was not clear whether the four to five suspects inside had been killed or captured.“

Mumbai attack: Was Nariman House the terror hub? – From Mid-Day News

”One of the militants called up a television news channel and voiced his demands today, but, interestingly, when he was asked where are they all holed him, he said at the Israeli owned Nariman House and they are six of them here”, one of the investigating cops said. Since morning, there has been exchange of gun fire has been going on and the militants seem well equipped to counter the cops fire. To top it, they have food and shelter. One wonders if they have the support of the residents, a local Ramrao Shanker said.“

Hostages killed by ‘terrorists’ or by security forces in shoot-out?

The Indian security forces thought that the remaining people in the Chabad house with the possible exception of the Rabbi and his wife were terrorists, and they were in a shoot-out with all these people. Yet reports persist that the ‘terrorists’ killed the ‘hostages’, before they were themselves killed. Some say the hostages were killed the day before. Reports also insist that the security forces killed only two terrorists at Chabad House.

However later reports say that the Indian security forces may have killed some of the hostages.

Zaka head: Indian forces may have killed some hostages – From The Jerusalem Post

“The Indian commando raid launched to save the lives of Jewish and Israeli hostages at Mumbai’s Chabad House may have inadvertently ended the lives of one or more of the hostages, the head of a six-man ZAKA team in the terror-stricken Indian city told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday”.

Whats going on? Were they terrorists or hostages? Indian security forces say there were only two hostages (the holtzberg couple) and rest were terrorists whom they gunned down. Jerusalem Post claim Indian forces killed the hostages.

Police insist that fifteen terrorists came ashore. Nine are dead and one is in custody. Where are the other five?

Mumbai attacks – city fears five terrorists are ‘missing’ – From The Times

“At least five terrorist gunmen might have escaped the carnage in Mumbai and could strike again, it emerged yesterday as a video surfaced showing the capture of the gang’s sole known surviving member.”

Were the missing five the same persons who were killed at the Chabad House?


While all this is going on theres also this mystery woman who was present not just at Cama Hospital but also at Nariman house.

Jewish Center Is Stormed, and 6 Hostages Die – From the New York Times

“Israeli officials and Lubavitch elders confirmed later that six hostages were found dead inside. They were Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, of Brooklyn, and his Israeli wife, Rivka, 28, the Lubavitch emissaries in Mumbai who ran Nariman House; another rabbi from Brooklyn who was living in Israel, Leibish Teitelbaum; Bentzion Chroman, an Israeli with dual American citizenship; an unidentified Israeli woman; and another unidentified woman, according to Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, a Lubavitch spokesman in Brooklyn , and The Associated Press”.

Two unidentified “hostages” were women. But here is a strange co-incidence. A number of reports and eyewitnesses claimed that at least one of the attackers was a woman.

Mystery woman had accompanied terrorists at Cama – From The Economic Times

“A man and a burqa clad woman entered from the gate opposite our quarters. The man started firing towards the hospital immediately after entering. Moments before, the woman, in a salwar kameez underneath her burqa, had even tried to enter the hospital by climbing a water pipe. As the man continued firing, the woman, who wasn’t armed, knocked on one of the houses”


“The shopkeeper’s friend said, “He told me that when he saw Azam’s picture in Mumbai Mirror on Thursday, he realised it was the same youth who had visited his shop with a woman, who was also young. He mentioned they had been like any other youths.”

So, the mystery woman was there with the group who bought all the food and were holed up in Chabad House. She was also spoted in action entering the Cama Hospital by climbing a water pipe, near where Karkare and his team was assassinated. Who is this woman? Last she was reported unidentified in Nariman House. But no female bodies were found there expect for Rivka Holtzberg who was gunned down by terrorists. Where did she vanish?

There is only one woman who is reported to have escaped Chabad House alive.

In her own words, nanny’s brave escape in Mumbai – From CNN

Moshe Holtzberg leads Sandra Samuel through Mumbai airport for flight to Israel where parents were buried.

Moshe Holtzberg leads Sandra Samuel through Mumbai airport for flight to Israel where parents were buried.

The world knows her as the daring nanny who, clutching a 2-year-old boy, pushed past the havoc in a terrorized Mumbai and risked her life to keep the toddler safe.

Sandra Samuel and Moshe were among the few to make it out of the Chabad House alive after gunmen stormed the Jewish center, killing the Holtzbergs and four others.

The nanny says she came face to face with a gunman late Wednesday, the first night of the siege. “I saw one man was shooting at me — he shot at me.”

She slammed a door and hid in a first-floor storage room and attempted to reach the rabbi and the others on the second floor.

She was spoted by the terrorists and allegedly also fired at her, why than did they not kill her? She was hiding in the house for almost a day.

Outside, chaos flooded the streets as people tried to make sense of the massacre that killed at least 179 people and wounded 300 others. Ultimately, she and Moshe reached safety at the home of an Israeli consul before arriving in Israel, where she is considered a hero.

Why did she go to the Israeli consul’s home? How did she managed to get to there? Samuel, a non-Jew Christian from Goa and native of India was later awarded permanent resident status and honorary Israeli citizenship on 13 September 2010.

The mystery of the hostages/terrorists/missing persons could easily have been solved, as is done in any crime scene all around the world – it’s called postmortem. Autopsies would give vital clues as to their role as victims or perpetrators. Forensic science is powerful science today. For example, gunpowder residue on fingers tells a tale.


Israel home for Moshe nanny – The Telegraph

“Israel has requested India not to conduct post-mortems on its nationals killed in the Nariman House siege, citing what it said were “privacy and religious reasons”.

“The request for not doing the post-mortem is based on privacy as well as some religious reasons,” an official of the Israeli embassy here said. According to the information with the mission, seven of the nine killed in the attack were Israeli nationals, all of them Jews.”

So, no autopsies in one of the country’s most crucial case. It only happens in India where Religion and Diplomacy conclude Criminal Investigation rather than sound principles of Forensic Evidence. But here is where it gets more interesting.

Mumbai attack: 5 years later, friend mourns Chabad Rabbi, his daughter fights terror – Indian Express

Bhagirath Mohandas Prasad aka Dr Aaron Abraham (converted to Judaism) stood guard over the bodies for two days at a morgue in Mumbai to ensure that autopsies were not conducted on them.

Abraham migrated to Israel with his family in November 2009. He now lives in Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement on the outskirts of Hebron on the West Bank.

He was Holtzberg’s family doctor and after receiving a licence to practise in Israel in 2010, shifted his practise to Tel Aviv with his wife Ruth Malka (originally Rani).

The couple’s son Samuel, 22, recently completed a two-year conscription with the Israeli Defence Force, and now hopes to study law in the US. Their elder daughter Sarah, 19, is Israel’s Thai boxing women’s champion, and won gold for the country at a championship in Thailand in July. She has enlisted for National Service, and is currently posted at a control room monitoring telephone intercepts.

So, we have a prime suspect who is spoted at both the crime scenes where Karkare is assassinated and at the Chabad House and a jewish convert who ensured no autopsies were conducted on the bodies both of whom migrated to Israel; one is given a national honour and others son works for Israeli Defence Force and daughter for National Service monitoring telephone intercepts; coincidence?

All these and more unanswered questions about the Nariman Chabad House lead to another very crucial question. Was Nariman House another of Mossad Safe Houses?

If we follow the brief history of Chabad House then it is clear that this spiritual Israeli sect has rubbed off many times on both sides of the law. It is also clear from various reports that Nariman House is used as a go between for various intelligence agents of every country that thinks they hold a stake in India. For more on the history of Chabad Movement refer to our report 26/11 Mumbai Attacks Part II – A High Profile Meet & An Assassination.

The area of intelligence, counter-intelligence and the protection of national economic resources is not a game for all. India is just waking up to it whereas the west and other geo-political players are veterans. It is a game played by the rules of these veteran players and we cannot define them, but have to understand and play by them.

Of course, closed circuit cameras, explosive identifying equipment, sniff dogs etc. do provide security to a limited level; but knowledge of the motives and the source of such motives will let us plan better for the security of innocent lives. If we do not plan well, then the Mumbai blasts will not be the last but the first in a series of many such attacks to come; on soft targets that paralyse growth and tear the fabric of the country apart into sectarian camps.

Shelley Kasli, Counter-Terrorism & Strategic Security Studies Department of GreatGameIndia.

Help keep our research going. Subscribe to GreatGameIndia – India’s only quarterly magazine on Geopolitics & International Affairs.