Tight security as Mumbai hotels prepare to reopen - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Tight security as Mumbai hotels prepare to reopen

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Posted: Saturday, December 20, 2008 9:27 pm | Updated: 9:18 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

 MUMBAI, India - Doormen in white suits and black turbans greeted visitors to the Oberoi with a bow on the eve of the hotel's reopening three weeks after it was targeted in a militant rampage. Security was noticeably tighter as guards scanned bags and sniffer dogs patrolled the ground outside.

Armed policemen stood watch among bunkers of sandbags outside the entrance to the hotel's Trident portion, where the owners said 100 rooms would reopen on Sunday, just weeks after 10 suspected Islamic militants stormed sites across India's financial capital.

Inside the Oberoi, private security guards manned all lobby entrances, passing bags through metal detectors and X-ray scanners. Journalists' ID cards were checked against a press list, and reporters and photographers were patted down by hand - a far cry from the relaxed atmosphere at the luxury Oberoi before the attacks.

Militants from the banned Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba are accused of staging the attacks that killed 164 people over the course of a three-day siege and paralyzed much of the Mumbai. Nine of the alleged gunmen were killed, and one is in police custody.

Two of the most high-profile targets were the sleek, sea-front Oberoi and another luxury hotel, the majestic, 105-year-old historic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower.

With Christmas approaching, both hotels have rushed to reopen sections to guests - with tighter security. The Taj Mahal Group said the tower wing of its hotel would reopen with a ceremony Sunday evening.

The main areas of the Oberoi and the Taj - left in tatters after shooting sprees and a 60-hour standoff with police - are expected to remain closed for months.

The Taj, gutted by fire and destroyed by grenades, remained dark Saturday even as Christmas trees festooned with lights twinkled outside the main entrance.

The Taj had stepped up security even before the Mumbai attacks, in response to a deadly car bombing at the Marriott in Islamabad, Pakistan, in September - primarily to prevent a similar attack. All cars underwent checks, and metal detectors were installed at all main entrances.

The gunmen, however, slipped in through a back entrance that did not have detectors, hotel officials have said.

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