As reports of European casualties in the Mumbai terrorist attack began to trickle in, top EU officials strongly condemned the "heinous" acts and vowed to coordinate aid for those Europeans caught up in the attack.
Indians -- and the world --are in shock
On Thursday, Nov. 27, the justice ministers of the bloc's 27 member states interrupted a scheduled meeting in Brussels to hold an emergency discussion on the attacks, officials in the EU capital confirmed.
The ministers "condemned the attacks most strongly, conveyed their condolences to the families of the victims ... and expressed their solidarity with the Indian authorities under these tragic circumstances," a statement said.
They also discussed the measures each state has put in place to help those of its citizens who were affected by the attacks.
French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said that she and her 26 EU counterparts had agreed to coordinate medical and evacuation help in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
“For countries that do not have consulates, nationals from those countries may of course turn to the 17 other member states who do have a consulate in Mumbai,” she said, adding that France would send a plane with evacuation experts and aid later Thursday.
Airlines cancel flights, EU aids in evacuation
A fire continues to rage at the Taj Hotel as authorities search for the hostage-takers
Alliot-Marie said the plane could be used to evacuate Europeans if necessary, she said. Spain's minister said Madrid was also sending an aircraft.
The announcement of aid comes as several European airlines have announced flight cancellations into and out of Mumbai. German airline Lufthansa said it had scrapped two flights departing from Germany Thursday and Italian carrier Alitalia cancelled all flights to Mumbai until further notice.
Air France likewise cancelled a flight from Mumbai to Paris scheduled for early Thursday morning. A company source said 15 members of a flight crew remained holed up in their rooms in one of the hotels invaded by gunmen, the Oberoi/Trident, though they were not being held hostage.
Europeans among more than 125 dead
As the Indian army struggled to route out the remaining terrorists and free those still caught in two hotels in Mumbai, the first reports of European casualties among the more than 125 dead began to trickle in. An Australian, a Briton, a German, an Italian and a Japanese businessman were among foreigners confirmed dead.
A 51-year-old German television executive from C.A.M.P. TV, a private company based in Munich, died after suffering fatal injuries in the siege. He fell as he climbed down the façade of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel on Wednesday night.
Germany's Foreign Ministry indicated he was the only German killed in the attack, but others were wounded. Britain's High Commissioner to India, Richard Stagg, told the BBC that seven British citizens had been injured in the attacks but Prime Minister Gordon Brown said earlier that it remained clear more were caught up in the attacks on the hotels.
Witnesses say the gunmen sought out Westerners
Among those also caught in the crossfire were members of a European Parliament delegation. They were in the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in the Indian city along with top industry executives and well-heeled tourists when the stunning raids were launched Wednesday night.
Sajjad Karim, a Conservative member of the European parliament from northwest England, told BBC radio how he was walking out of the front doors of the Taj Mahal Palace when the gunmen burst in.
"All of a sudden there was gunshots that we could hear from outside the main grounds of the hotel. We were directed back into the hotel. As we got to the rear exit another gunman came in who was carrying an automatic machine gun type of weapon and he just started firing that, quite indiscriminately really."
The MEPs hid in a kitchen area while the gunmen went on their rampage reportedly demanding whether guests had British or US passports.
They "made their way along the corridors, and they were entering rooms and firing and security guards were exchanging fire with them."
Though the delegation was able to evacuate and are now safe, it is believed that Americans, Israelis and Canadians were said to be among those believed to still be held hostage.
European leaders denounce terror act
Meanwhile, leaders from across Europe have issued statements condemning the attacks. The European Commission issued a statement condemning "in the strongest terms the heinous terrorist attacks."
"Terrorism is never justified and is no means to achieve any goal. We stand by the Indian government in its fight against terrorism. Our thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured," the statement by the EU's executive arm said.
Chancellor Merkel called Prime Minister Singh with condolences
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who’d stayed in the Taj hotel just last year, phoned Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday to express shock and send a message of condolence.
"Our thoughts are with the victims and their families," she said, further condemning "these criminal acts in strong terms."
In a separate statement, the French government, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, said that it had heard of the attacks with "horror and indignation" and "condemned them with the greatest rigor."
The presidency "knows the attachment the people of India have to democracy" and "stands by their side during this dramatic trial," the statement said.
Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, likewise pledged his country’s support, saying that he would send police experts to India to help investigators and do "whatever is necessary" to protect Britons from what he called a "horrific incident."
"We're sending police emergency teams that are well versed in dealing with terrorism," he said, adding that he was "shocked and outraged" by the attacks which killed at least 100 people.
"We will try to give what support we can through British police and security officials to the Indian government at this time. …That's in addition to the expert staff who are being sent out to help British nationals... We will do whatever is necessary to protect British citizens and ensure the world is a safer place," he said.