When news happens, text LT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
North West MEP Sajjad Karim safe after fleeing Mumbai gunmen
A North West Euro-MP who was forced to flee gunmen who stormed his Mumbai hotel last night is safe and well, his family said this morning.
Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim this morning said security forces fought gunmen “floor by floor and room by room” in an attempt to gain control of the Taj Mahal hotel.
This morning the family of Mr Karim, who was born in Blackburn, lives in Simonstone in the Ribble Valley and grew up in Pendle, said they had heard he is now safe.
Mr Karim said this morning: “I left the Taj at 5am this morning and was taken to a secure place.
”The situation in the city is still ongoing but certainly at the Taj I think it is is over.”
Mr Karim added: “I was in a room that was completely sealed off but I could hear what was going on.
"(The Indian security forces) fought them floor by floor, and room by room.”
Commenting on the situation now, the MEP said: “It is very, very quiet.”
Last night, Mr Karim gave a dramatic mobile phone interview at around 6.30pm saying he was hiding in the dark of the basement.
Mr Karim said: “I was in the lobby of the hotel when gunmen came in and people started running.
"There were about 25 or 30 of us. There was a lot of commotion.
“Some of us split one way and some another. A gunman just stood there spraying bullets around, right next to me.
“I managed to turn away and I ran into the hotel kitchen and then we were shunted into a restaurant in the basement.
"We are now in the dark in this room and we’ve barricaded all the doors. It’s really bad.”
Mr Karim is part of a delegation of Euro MPs visiting Mumbai ahead of the forthcoming EU-India summit.
He said that as he ran from the lobby, he saw people falling but did not know the extent of any casualties. He said it seemed to be a “random attack”.
The attack was one of at least seven co-ordinated around the city at luxury hotels, a station and a tourist restaurant.
The gunmen attacked the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station in southern Mumbai and Leopold’s restaurant, a Mumbai landmark, along with the Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels.
There were unconfirmed reports of an explosion near the city’s domestic airport.
Eye-witnesses caught up in the chaos said that gunmen were looking for Britons and Americans.
Indian television reports also claimed that the country’s anti-terrorism chief, Hemant Karkare, had been killed in the attacks.
India media organisations were reporting that they had received emails from an unknown group, the Deccan Mujahideen, claiming responsibility for the attacks.
According to officers, police had killed four suspects and arrested nine more.
Alex Chamberlain, who works for a sports website and was in the city on business, told Sky News the gunmen burst into the Oberoi hotel’s restaurant and herded diners upstairs.
“They told everybody to stop and put their hands up and asked if there were any British or Americans.
"My friend said to me ‘don’t be a hero, don’t say you are British’.
”I am sure that is what this is all about. They were talking about British and Americans specifically.”
A senior police officer said police were fighting the gunmen.
He said: “The terrorists have used automatic weapons and in some places grenades have been lobbed.
“The encounters are still going on and we are trying to overpower them.”
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said he could not give any indication of the number of Britons involved in the incident and could not comment on reports that British people were being targeted.
India’s Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, said: “They have attacked the hospital, they have attacked the railway station, so it seems there has been a conspiracy.
Before the attack last night, the Foreign Office had warned travellers there was a “high threat” of terrorism throughout India.
Attacks have targeted places of worship and major festivals such as Diwali as well as areas popular with expatriates and foreign travellers.
Mumbai, known as the financial capital of India, has been among the major cities targeted in violence across the country in recent years.
On July 11, 2006 there was a series of explosions on commuter trains in western Mumbai, leaving more than 180 people dead and hundreds injured.
Sajjad Karim factfile
Sajjad Karim has been an MEP since 2004.
He was voted in as a Liberal Democrat MEP but caused controversy when he defected to the Conservative Party earlier this year.
Mr Karim was born in Blackburn and grew up in Brierfield, where his family still live.
He went to Mansfield High School and Nelson and Colne College, before studying law at university.
He qualified as a solicitor in 1997 after completing his training in Burnley and Pendle.
He runs Manchester-based Sajjad Karim Solicitors.
Mr Karim was elected to Pendle Council at the age of 24, standing for two terms as a Liberal Democrat for Brierfield before stepping down in 2002.
Two years later he was the first British Muslim to become an MEP.
Mr Karim holds a number of posts, including co-chair of the European Muslim Forum, a member for the Delegation for Relations with the Gulf States, chair of the European Parliament Friends of Pakistan Group, vice-chair of the Friends of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Group and vice-chairman of the Local Government Association UK.
He is married to Zahida and the couple live in Simonstone.