Amitabh Bachchan along with artists performs during a programme to pay homage to the victims of 26/11 terror attacks, in Mumbai, Nov. 26. (Shashank Parade/PTI)
Expressing solidarity with the innocent victims of the 2008 Mumbai attack, President Donald Trump has said the US stands with the people of India in their quest for justice and will never let the terrorists win, writes Lalit K. Jha.
A total of 166 people, including six Americans, were killed in the terror attack on November 26, 2008 carried out by 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists over a period of three days. Nine of the attackers were killed by the police while lone survivor Ajmal Kasab was captured and hanged after he was handed down the death sentence by an Indian court.
“On the ten-year anniversary of the Mumbai terror attack, the US stands with the people of India in their quest for justice,” Trump tweeted.
“The attack killed 166 innocents, including six Americans. We will never let terrorists win, or even come close to winning!” he said.
The president’s comments came days after he defended his administration’s decision to stop hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan for not doing enough to curb terrorism and criticised Islamabad for offering a hideout to slain al-Qaeda chief bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad.
“We give Pakistan USD 1.3 billion a year… (bin Laden) lived in Pakistan, we’re supporting Pakistan, we’re giving them USD 1.3 billion a year — which we don’t give them anymore, by the way, I ended it because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us,” Trump said.
Kia Scherr, whose husband and a 13-year-old daughter were killed in the Mumbai terror attack, thanked President Trump for his tweet.
“May this day serve to remind us that love overpowers hate. This is the strength no bullet can kill. This is our true power. Thank you,” she said.
At a solemn event ‘in memory of the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks’ at the Indian Embassy here, a top American counterterrorism official called on Pakistan to bring LeT operatives and other terrorists to justice.
“We call upon all countries, particularly Pakistan, to do their parts in bringing the perpetrators to justice. All countries must uphold their international obligations to take action against this UN sanctioned terrorist group and its leaders,” said Nathan Sales, State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism in his brief remarks.
Noting that a day earlier, the State Department announced a new reward of USD 5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of those involved in the carnage, Sales said, “With this, we remind the world that we have not forgotten those who perished 10 years ago and we will not rest until the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
It is an absolute affront to the victims and their families that after 10 years those who planned these despicable acts have still not been convicted for their crimes, Sales said, echoing the statement of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a day earlier.
“Our citizens died together. So we must all work together to end the scourge of terrorism. We must prevent the terrorists who committed this act of barbarism, LeT from ever threatening our people again,” Sales said.
In his remarks, Indian Ambassador to the US, Navtej Singh Sarna, paid tributes to the innocent lives lost during the attack.
He condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and urged the international community to call upon Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of this heinous terrorist attack to justice.
Sarna thanked the State Department for instituting a “Rewards for Justice” programme announcing a bounty for any information leading to arrest or conviction of any individual involved in planning or facilitating the attack.
To honour the memory of the victims, a moment of silence was observed by the attendees followed by lighting of candles. Extracts from an article written on this occasion by Scherr, the co-founder of a charity ‘One Life Alliance’, was also read out.
The event concluded with the screening of the HBO documentary on 26/11 Mumbai attacks, titled ‘Terror in Mumbai’.
The event among others was attended by Basant Sanghera and Jennifer Whethey, Director in the US National Security Council at the White House. Rabbi Levi Shemstov, Executive Vice President, American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) recounted his personal experience when he desperately tried to save his friends and colleagues in Mumbai and talked with one of the terrorists over phone.
Congressman Eliot L Engel, Ranking Member of the powerful House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said 10 years ago, the world watched in real time as a horrific terrorist attack unfolded over the course of 60 hours in Mumbai.
“I join the friends and families in remembering the 166 victims, including the six American citizens killed during the attack, and I stand in solidarity with the people of India who have demonstrated their resilience in the face of such violence,” he said.
“It remains imperative, as it was 10 years ago, to bring the perpetrators of such heinous and senseless violence to account,” said Engel, who is expected be the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee next year.
“Ten years ago the people of India fell victim to a heinous terrorist attack in Mumbai. Today we remember the victims and stand with India in the fight to end violent Islamist extremism,” Congressman Ted Yoho said in a tweet.