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We stand shoulder to shoulder with India: Australia PDF Print E-mail

© Neena Bhandari, Indo Asian News Service

ImageSydney, November 29 (IANS): Australian fatalities in the Mumbai terrorist attacks may rise, warned Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, as he reaffirmed this will not hamper but strengthen bilateral ties with India.

"We stand shoulder to shoulder with India at this very difficult time. Whilst there will be difficulties in terms of travel, in some respects this will help make us closer as neighbours and friends," Smith told Australian Broadcasting Corporation's AM programme Saturday morning.

The number of Australian casualties is expected to rise with two confirmed deaths in the terrorist attacks that have left 155 killed and over 300 injured.

Smith said it was difficult to estimate the time it would take to confirm the Australian death toll. "I can't discount that there may not be ... further Australians amongst the victims. We just have to wait patiently while the Indian authorities go through the painstaking process of clearing the hotel and identifying victims", Smith told ABC Radio.

"Unfortunately, I can't put a timetable on that. I think we have to say days rather than hours. It's a terrible painstaking process. I think also we are better off proceeding with caution," Smith said.

The Australian government has sent additional consular officers to India to help provide new passports to those who needed them, counselling and medical assistance and a financial assistance package for people affected by the attacks.

"All of the things that we can do for people who have been caught up in it we think we have been doing," Smith said.

Three Australians, Debra Bayne, a Sydney businesswoman, Drew Dickson, an architect, and Ross Jarman, a business director, who were part of the 12-member New South Wales state trade delegation and were trapped in the Oberoi Trident Hotel, were glad to arrive home Friday night after a three-day ordeal.

The Australians killed include a timber merchant from Sydney, Brett Taylor, 49, who was part of the NSW trade delegation, and a former Sydney businessman and councillor and father of two adult children, Doug Markell, 71, who was holidaying with his wife, Alison, in Mumbai.

Australian Indians shocked, concerned about relatives in Mumbai 

Sydney, Nov 27 (IANS) Working the telephone lines, monitoring television, sending e-mails... Indians in Australia Thursday desperately tried to get information on friends and family in Mumbai as they woke up to the horror of the massive terror strike in India's financial capital that has killed at least 101 people.

"It is very sad and frightening. I had just woken up and switched on the television to see the horrifying events in Mumbai unfold on screen," Shubha Kumar, a research scientist who migrated here from Ahmedabad in 1973, told IANS about the attack that also left over 250 injured.

Some Australians are believed to be among the victims.

"One could never ever imagine anything like this. One wonders what can be the motive behind killing innocent people," said Kumar whose niece was with her friends on the 18th floor of the Oberoi Trident Hotel when they heard gun shots and blasts.

The hotel along with the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel was among the prominent landmarks targetted by terrorists in an overnight attack that began Wednesday. People continued to be held hostage at the two hotels well into Thursday.

"After 12 long hours, I have finally managed to touch base with my niece. She is in Mumbai on a six-month work project from her company in London and has been staying at the Oberoi Hotel. She told me that on hearing the loud blasts and gun shots they panicked and ran down the fire escape.

"There were people running helter-skelter, screaming and shouting everywhere when they were swiftly and calmly guided by the hotel staff to a secure place. She is safe in her older sister's home in suburban Mumbai now," said Kumar.

She is one of the many Indians in Australia concerned about the safety of their extended families and friends in India's financial capital.

"The wife of one of our friends who was in Mumbai visiting her parents was in Nariman Point when the attacks happened at the Oberoi Trident Hotel. She has been traumatised and shaken by what she saw," Raj Natarajan, president of the United India Association (UIA), the apex body representing 18 Indian community organisations in Australia, told IANS.

"This is a deplorable act and we condemn the deadly attacks. It is not the first time that India has been subjected to terrorism. People who don't believe in democratic ways are trying to divide India along religious lines, but India has demonstrated in the past that it won't succumb to such divisive tactics adopted by terrorists.

"Our heart goes out to all the people there. UIA will be eager to provide financial help to the affected families," Natarajan told IANS.

Federation of Australian Indian Associations (FAIA) has also expressed deep sorrow at the loss of life and injury caused to hundreds of people in Mumbai. FAIA is organising a prayer meeting this weekend to offer condolences and pray for victims of Mumbai and Oct 30 Assam blasts.

Cricket Australia suspends India travel following Mumbai attacks

Sydney, November 27 (IANS) Cricket Australia (CA) Thursday has told the Victorian and Western Australian sides, participating in the Twenty20 Champions League scheduled to begin next week, not to travel to India following the series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The Victoria team was to stay at the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers, one of the two hotels that were targets of the deadly assault.

"We've obviously been in contact with our colleagues in India early this morning. Given the circumstances, Cricket Australia has put an immediate hold on any cricket-related travel to India," CA spokesman Philip Pope told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

"We have been speaking to our own security expert who is in India, we've been speaking to the players' association and our own playing groups and stakeholders. “We find in circumstances like these that it takes at least 12 hours, if not longer, to gain a very clear picture and for clear details to emerge. So for now we'll put that hold on cricket-related travel to India and will continue to monitor the situation," Pope told the ABC.

The state players were scheduled to leave for India on Saturday and the first game was scheduled to be played in Mumbai next Wednesday.

The Victorian cricket team officials were due to fly Friday and stay at the Taj Hotel, which has been one of the main targets of the deadly attacks.

"Yes, we were due to book into the Taj with some officials due to fly over tomorrow and the bulk of the team due to go over there on Saturday. We're awaiting advice from the government and also Cricket Australia and their security personnel”, Cricket Victoria's Eivion Bowen told ABC.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan Royals’ captain Shane Warne and Darren Berry, who were supposed to arrive in Mumbai Thursday from Singapore, have cancelled their travel plan.

Other Australian Test stars representing Indian Premier League (IPL) teams, Matthew Hayden, Mike Hussey and Shane Watson, were also expected to be in India.

Australia offers counter-terror, as one Australian killed in Mumbai

Sydney, Nov 27 (IANS) At least one Australian national was killed and three injured after terrorists Wednesday night wreaked havoc in south Mumbai, killing at least 101 people and injuring 250.

A 49-year-old Australian, Braid Gilbert Taylor, has been confirmed dead and there are unconfirmed reports of another Australian killed.

Describing the attacks as "murderous", Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Australia was ready to help India in every possible way.

"We stand ready to assist India in any way it needs right now. We are offering through the Australian Federal Police, assistance with counter-terrorism, and forensics policing, to the Indian authorities, and any other assistance which may be of direct relevance at this time," Rudd told Australian parliament Thursday.

"Whichever group has perpetrated this attack, they are cowards, absolute cowards, and murderers. This cowardly attack on India's stability, peace and democracy reminds us all that international terrorism is far from defeated, and that we must all maintain our vigilance," Rudd said.

The Prime Minister also warned that there could be more Australian casualties.

A 24-year-old Sydney student, Katie Anstee, has undergone surgery after a bullet shattered her femur bone as she dined with her boyfriend, David Coker, who suffered minor bullet and shrapnel wounds, at café Leopold of Australian writer Gregory David Roberts' of 'Shantaram' fame.

Coker's father was quoted in the local media as saying: "He lay on top of her until the shooting stopped and then picked her up and carried her outside and saw a gunman about 15 metres away and said he'll never forget the look - (he) looked at him and (the gunman) looked at Coker and he said 'he didn't shoot me dad'."

Australian Steve Smith told Channel Seven that he saw two gunmen toss grenades into a restaurant at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, where he was having a beer just hours earlier.

"Then they opened fire for about 10 minutes with AK-47s (semi-automatic assault rifles)," Smith told the Seven Network.

Meanwhile, one member of a 12-person New South Wales state government trade mission, who had been staying at the Oberoi Trident hotel, remains unaccounted for.

Acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean told reporters, "The Australian Government unreservedly condemns this indiscriminate and cowardly terrorist set of acts... We, of course, express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the victims and to their families, and we also express our fundamental solidarity with the Indian Government and its people. This is an appalling assault on the people, and the stability and the democracy of India".

In India, there are about 2,100 Australians and 300 are said to be in Mumbai.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has reissued the travel advisory Thursday evening urging Australians to "reconsider your need to travel to India" and "avoid travel to Mumbai at this time".

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull told the local media, "[India] is a very successful economy and to see these criminals trying to disrupt that in a mad destructive way is tragic and our hearts go out to the people of Mumbai, to all of the people who have been hurt, to the Australians who were there but also to the whole of India".

Australian actress, boyfriend fly out of Mumbai

Sydney, Nov 28 (IANS) Australian soap opera actress Brooke Satchwell and her film editor boyfriend David Gross were Friday on a flight to Singapore after a harrowing 36 hours in India's financial capital Mumbai, still battling a coordinated terror attack that began two nights ago.

Satchwell was at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel Wednesday night when gunshots and grenade attacks by militants turned the luxury hotel into a war zone.

The former star of the popular Australian soap opera "Neighbours" was in India for a three-week film shoot and had hid for up to an hour in a cupboard in a toilet on the ground floor before she was rescued by hotel staff.

"From what I know, yes [she is one of the few Australians to leave]... But I haven't been told a lot. She was one of the few [to get out of the country] - I don't know how that happened, I don't know how they got out," her agent Sarah Linsten was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press (AAP) news agency.

At least three members of the 12 person New South Wales state trade delegation are still said to be holed up inside the Oberoi Trident Hotel.

According to AAP, a spokesperson for Australia Asia Flight Training, which sent a delegate to Mumbai, confirmed their representative had not left his room since the attacks began Wednesday night IST and had no food or information from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Satchwell and her boyfriend have also criticised the Australian government for lack of support for Australian nationals caught in the mayhem and have told the local media that the British and American officials had been more helpful.

Up to 26 Australians are believed to be trapped in the Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi Trident hotels, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

At least six foreigners were amongst the 125 people killed in the brazen terror attack that targeted some of Mumbai's best known landmarks.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any content is expressly prohibited without  the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated.   

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