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By David Gollust
28 November 2008
The State Department says two Americans have been confirmed killed and two others wounded in the Mumbai terrorist attacks and that additional U.S. citizens were still at risk in the Indian financial hub. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is engaged in diplomatic outreach on the attacks. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The State Department is confirming that two Americans are among the dead and two others have been wounded in what are described here as "horrendous" acts of terrorism in Mumbai.
|Smoke emerges from behind a dome on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, India, 26 Nov 2008|
But officials suggest the toll could be higher, saying that U.S. citizens were "at risk" at two venues where Indian security operations were still ongoing Friday at the waterfront Taj Mahal Hotel and a Jewish community center.
The State Department did not identify those known dead, but officials did not contest the announcement from a meditation group in Virginia that two of its members - Alan Scherr and his daughter Naomi - had been killed at the Oberoi hotel.
In a talk with reporters, State Department acting spokesman Gordon Duguid said the Mubai attacks have prompted a flurry of U.S. diplomatic activity, with both President Bush and Secretary of State Rice telephoning Indian leaders to offer condolences and U.S. assistance in the investigation.
The spokesman said Rice spoke Thursday with, among others, British Foreign Secrertary David Miliband and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
Some Indian officials have suggested neighboring countries and implicitly Pakistan might have been involved in the attacks in some way, though Pakistan denies this.
Spokesman Duguid said the United States has no information on who the Mumbai attackers were and what their motives may have been. He said Rice called President Zardari to discuss the situation in general terms.
"She's calling the Pakistanis simply because she wants to discuss what's happening very near Pakistan's border," he said. "You understand the tensions that have existed in the region, after the [New Delhi] parliamentary attacks of a few years back, 2001 I believe it was. There were very worrying tensions in the region. She was calling the president of Pakistan to get his read on how those tensions might be affected."
Duguid noted that India and Pakistan have already said they intend to cooperate in the investigation of the Mumbai events, and said the United States has always worked for a lessening of tensions between the two South Asian powers.
He said Secretary Rice went to the Camp David retreat to brief President Bush on the situation Friday morning, and has also had two telephone conversations on the attacks with President-elect Barack Obama.
The State Department has sent staff members from its embassy in New Delhi and consulates in Chennai and Kolkata to reinforce the sea-side U.S. Mumbai consulate, which remains open.
U.S. diplomats have been deployed to Mumbai hospitals and the terrorist attack venues to assist Americans in distress. The State Department is advising U.S. citizens to defer travel to Mumbai for the time being.