Wiretap recordings of Mumbai attackers reveal how Chabad House was chosen as Jewish target

166 were killed and more than 300 injured in the 2008 attacks


Terrorists in the 2008 Mumbai attacks were heard on telephone wiretaps planning to attack the Chabad House, where six Jews were murdered, the JC has learned from government sources in India.

The recordings reveal that the centre, rather than being an opportunistic target, was sought out as a Jewish location.

The audio was obtained by Indian intelligence monitoring conversations between members of militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and their leaders, believed to be in Pakistan. The jihadists used firearms and explosives across the city over 60 hours in November 2008, claiming 166 lives and injuring more than 300 others.

The wiretaps disclosed by a source in India detail how the terrorists chose a Jewish target and other locations as part of a plan to strike a number of different communities and to elicit maximum attention from the world’s media.

Other targets included the Taj Mahal Palace hotel — identified as place for wealthy foreign tourists — while a train station was selected as it would be teeming with crowds. The attack on the Chabad centre at Nariman House shattered the peaceful existence Jews had enjoyed alongside the Hindu and Muslim communities in Mumbai for a millennia.

Chabad Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, originally from Brooklyn, died at the Chabad House with his 28-year-old Israeli-born wife Rivka. Jerusalem resident Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum, 37, also from Brooklyn, who had been the kashrut supervisor at the centre, also perished as did dual US-Israeli citizen Bentzion Chroman, 28, was in India to work with his friend Rabbi Teitelbaum. Chroman left behind a wife and three children, one just eight months old, the others five years old and two years old.

The other victims were Israeli grandmother Yocheved Orpaz, 60, who had been travelling in India with her family, and Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich, 50, a mother of three from Mexico, who was about to fly to Israel for her son’s 18th birthday.

The recordings of the terrorists discussing their selection of targets is confirmation of the strategy that has long been suspected was used in the deployment of the 10 heavily armed militants, all of them Pakistani nationals.

It is claimed among the voices heard is that of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, accused by India of masterminding the bloodshed. The only surviving Mumbai jihadist claimed Lakhvi helped to “indoctrinate all the attackers”. Lakhvi was jailed in Pakistan this year for terror financing.
Indian officials maintain the attacks had secret backing from Pakistani intelligence services and that other perpetrators remain at large. Pakistan denies the claims.

Israeli filmmaker Oren Rosenfeld was told by Indian government sources about the wiretap tapes while working on a documentary about Mumbai’s Jewish community . He told the JC: “They’ve got recordings from the terrorists where they specifically mention the Chabad House as a target. When they crossed with the boat to Mumbai they knew where they were headed. That was one of the targets on the list.

“They knew targeting Jews was going to make more headlines.” The director said: “The Jewish community in India and in Mumbai was never persecuted, the only reason anyone left was for financial opportunity or to go on aliyah.

"There’s a thriving community. It’s a great example of a country where Jews were never persecuted and in today’s world that’s really rare. It’s a city of 23 million people and it’s made out of many, many different religions and they all get along. The purpose of this attack was to shatter this harmony.”

The Holtzbergs’ son Moshe was two years old at the time of the attacks and survived after being rescued by his Indian nanny. Aged 10, he came back to Chabad House accompanied by a psychiatrist for his care and saw a room in which the damage caused to a wall by an explosion during the siege has been left as a memorial.

The boy has said he hopes eventually to come back for good as a rabbi, following in his father’s footsteps. The nanny, Sandra Samuel, was granted honorary Israeli citizenship in recognition of her courage.

Mr Rosenfeld’s film Mumbai Jews, tracing the history of the city’s community from the destruction of the first temple to the present day, is due to be released next year.

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