updated 12/1/2008 4:25:18 PM ET 2008-12-01T21:25:18

Guest: Gary Berntsen, Vaihayasi Daniel, Riz Khan, Frank Wisner, Tyler Drumheller

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC HOST: A night of chaos and terror in Mumbai, India, formerly known as Bombay. At least 80 people have been killed, as many as 900 wounded. And according to eyewitnesses the terrorists kept shouting as they ram paged through two luxury hotels. Who here is British or American? Good evening, everyone. I'm David Shuster in tonight for Chris Matthews. And here is the scene right now where there is every indication that Indian security forces are forcefully trying to end the remaining hostage standoffs but according to Indian officials, the situation remains out of control. Earlier this evening, several teams of terrorists using automatic weapons and hand grenades burst into at least two of the most popular luxury hotels used by Western businessmen and women in Mumbai. They sprayed gun fire, killing men and women on the spot and specifically tried to take British and U.S. citizens hostage. The terrorists targeted the city's train station, a hospital, a police station, a movie theater and a restaurant popular with Westerners. A group of suspected Muslim militants is claiming responsibility. But the group called the Deccan Mujahideen is any organization many terrorism analysts until this evening had never heard of. Mumbai has often been targeted by Islamic extremists including a series of bombings a year and a half ago that killed 187 people ago. This was the scene a short time ago inside the Taj Hotel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, what have you seen inside, what in terms of damage?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people are not there. Just going to take a (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what have you seen inside?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, there is nobody inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of damage?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is major damage inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) but there are six are now safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So here you are. This is the first pictures of the kind of damage you've seen at the Heritage Wing. The entire thing has been broken down, luckily, two big symbols of what defines the Taj Hotel, the Taj Heritage Wing are pretty much intact but as you can see these were broken open by the fire brigade trying to gain access. If we can walk around here, we can show you the kind of damage that has happen in terms of the metal detector which obviously scans people for bombs, obviously today it could not do its job. Also look at the kind of damage inside the Taj Hotel if we can show you. It is all broken inside. There is a lot of water. Obviously the fire alarms did go on and the kind of water that you can see inside. We have be seen any people inside. As the fire chief said, there have been rescues, but clearly lot of damage to this great old hotel. A part of history. All these doors have been broken down. And they were locked after the terrorists gained access.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER: Joining us now is NBC News senior foreign correspondent Richard Engel. And from New York. And in Quebec is Gary Berntsen, former CIA officer and author of "Human Intelligence." And Richard, I want to start with you. What is your latest reporting about the situation now and who is responsible for this?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We only have, at this point, one claim of responsibility from a group that you mentioned before, the Deccan Mujahideen that is a previously unknown group. In terms of what we're hearing from witnesses including people who are inside the hotel and reporters who are in Mumbai is that this is still an ongoing situation. That the situation in the Taj hotel appears to have calm down somewhat. Many of the people who are still inside, the Westerners, the tourists, the hotel staff and management, have either been evacuated or sent to some of the lower floors or even a basement at the bottom of the hotel while the police and commandos and Army officers were storming the hotel and had trapped the militants on to at least one of the upper floors. They say there were a half dozen gunmen in the building. It is still unclear if they are still holding hostages. At the other hotel, the Oberoi, the military operation is not quite as advanced. The troops are still going in to try and end the hostage situation. But the details of what exactly is going on in that hotel remain less clear and there have been numerous gunshots heard over the last hour or so, David.

SHUSTER: Gary Berntsen, when you try to sort of connect all these sites together, very popular with Westerners, obviously, businessmen and women. This is also sort of the seat of power, provincial power. Obviously, this is sort of the financial capital of India's Mumbai. A lot of financiers and bankers would go to these hotels. When you see this type of attack with automatic weapons and hand grenades, what does it tell both about the scope and who might likely be responsible and what they were trying to aim for tonight?

GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Clearly, Mumbai is the site of what has been many attacks, 1993 by Dawood-u-Ibrahim (ph), the narcoterrorists who did those attacks. There have been follow-on attacks in 2003, 2007. A lot of this, of course, I would estimate this is Kashmiri based. If write to look at it, I would say it is probably Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is Kashmiri group that is led by Hafiz Mohammed Said (ph). They are a group that is affiliated al Qaeda. Actually, we captured Abu Zubaydah, the number three of al Qaeda, a chief of operations in a safe house over in Basalbad (ph) in Pakistan. But they have training. They do four weeks of basic training. They do advanced training later on. They've trained 10,000 fighters over the last few years. They are very organized. They recruit university graduates. That particular group. There are 24 militant groups in Pakistan. The one I'm talking about, Lashkar-e-Taiba is the most dangerous of those groups. It is actually a Wahabi group. Even though some of the other groups are Diobandis (ph). So we will see they will capture some of them. We'll see what happens during the debriefings to find out specifically who. But I wouldn't be surprised if you find Hafez Mohammed Said's (ph) fingerprints on this and maybe even Dawood Ibrahim (ph).

SHUSTER: And Richard Engel, I want to get your reaction to this as well. First of all your sort of initial reaction to the attack. But again everything seem to link this. And also those reports they were specifically targeting Westerners. What do you make of it all?

ENGEL: We'll start with the Westerners. That came from the survivor of the attack. He was himself a British national of Indian descent. He was in the hotel. And described how the gunman, in this case, two gunmen were rounding up all the foreigners that they could find and demanding that people who held British and American passports come with them to the upper floors of the hotel where they would be held hostages. So that was from an account of someone who managed to escape. Initial impressions from this attack, based on the conversations that I've been having with counterterrorism specialists is that this is a very easy kind of attack to do. It doesn't take a lot of resources. No major equipment. This would be a very cheap kind of attack to carry out. You just need a few dozen people. We've been told about 20 people may have been involved in all of these attacks across Mumbai today. Some AK-47s, some grenades, perhaps explosives. There have been reports of a car bomb or two that have been found in the city. But not a terribly sophisticated attack in term of the materials. It was really the way it was carried out, this high level of coordination that made it effective. The concern is that it could be a model the same way other attacks have been. Madrid being a model for attacks on the transport system. This could be an attack for an unsophisticated, highly coordinated attack that lock down a major financial center, a major city.

SHUSTER: Gary Berntsen, how much of a challenge is this at this hour right now for the Indian security forces? You heard Richard's reporting that at least one of the situations at one of the hotels happen been resolved. Obviously a very chaotic situation as security forces are trying to respond to attacks at eight different locations. How well equipped and ready are the Indian security forces for this type of situation tonight?

BERNTSEN: Most security forces in most cities train for one, maximum two incidents. And to have to set up multiple command posts and have many, many on scene commanders simultaneously functioning would be a challenge for any country. Whether the U.S., the U.K. who are probably the best at doing this sort of thing. It will be tough for the Indians. It appears they're going at them head on. And looking to sort of try to resolve as much of this as they can in one night so that they don't have drawn out hostage situations.

SHUSTER: All right. Gary Berntsen, former CIA officer, author of "Human Intelligence" from Quebec. And Richard Engel, our NBC News senior foreign correspondent, we're going to ask you to stand by just momentarily.

We want to get to the phone now of Vaihayasi Daniel. He is the features editor for the Indian Web site redif.com. He's been to all the sites of these attacks. And Vihay, why don't you describe, what is it that links each of these sites together?

VAIHAYASI DANIEL, ON SCENE OF ATTACK SITES: Well, I haven't been to all the attacks. I've been to both hotel attack and I happened to be right there when they had the shootout on Marine Drive. It is a beach type drive many and that was like the most - there are two leading hotels in South Bombay which is like the end of the peninsula which are luxury hotels where many of this actually was taking place. And I think one of the terrorists from the Oberoi Hotel escaped down this beachside drive so the police had a blockade and they sort of caught them right there. We saw them with all these guns, it looked like machine guns.

SHUSTER: Why don't you describe the scene for us? What did you see? Was it chaotic? Did you see smoke? Give us sort of an eyewitness account of what you saw with your own eyes.

DANIEL: It looked actually like a brawl at first. I didn't even know that it was an encounter. I actually saw the police physically handling them and hitting them and there were guns all over the place. Their guns. Huge looking guns which I had not seen before. And they were banging the car. Then from all sides, police reinforcements were coming. Then they managed - that's what I heard, when I asked them, that's what they said. They managed to arrest two of the people and then they shot one person. And so there was like a mad scramble.

SHUSTER: OK. Vaihayasi, features editor. Thank you very much. I want to bring back in Richard Engel. Richard, first of all, what do you make of that information? The eyewitness account of how things are going right now?

ENGEL: I think it describes how this day unfolded. There would be one attack. And then suddenly we would hear news of another attack taking place at another location. It has been a very complicated day. At one stage, all of the cell phones stopped working in Mumbai. So it was difficult to communicate with people. I've just been told that, NBC News has just been handed this information. A U.S .official tells NBC News, so far, the united states knows of one American who has been quote "seriously injured" in the attacks tonight but that no other confirmation of American injuries or deaths. So U.S. official telling NBC News, so far, at least one American has been confirmed as being seriously injured.

SHUSTER: All right. Thank you, Richard Engel and Gary Berntsen. And our coverage is going to continue next with more on the Mumbai attack. Obviously a very difficult situation for Indian security forces. As the situation continues to unfold, and they continue to try to go after the terrorists, as we speak, we'll get into that next. You're watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER: At this hour, Mumbai, India. Indian security forces continue to try to target the terrorists at one of two luxury hotels that came under attack earlier this evening. An Indian security officials says the situation remains out of control. One group that has claimed responsibility tonight is known as the Decca Mujahideen. That is a group that is relatively unknown. We're getting some new information from NBC's own Jim Miklaszewski, our pentagon correspondent, as far as who may be responsible. Let's go to Jim at the Pentagon with the latest. Jim?

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, David, military intelligence and counterterrorism officials are meeting at the White House at this late hour to try to figure out just who is responsible for this attack. You know, shortly after the news of the scope of this attack, 80 dead, 900 injured, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was on the phone with her counterparts in India pledging all kinds of support that the U.S. could give, particularly in trying to figure out who it that's behind this attack. Because there is a high level of concern that if India makes a link between this terrorist attack and for example, the group the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group that is based in Pakistan who is alleged to have carried out attacks along with the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency, in India, in previous occasions, that could be hugely problematic for the United States in its efforts to keep India and Pakistan apart, at peace, relatively. So that the U.S. and Pakistani officials can concentrate on the al Qaeda and Taliban there in the western part of Pakistan. So far, U.S. officials say because of the sophistication, and the high coordination that was involved in this attack, although low tech, AK-47s, grenades, a couple of car bomb, it still indicates a high level of planning which according to intelligence officials, would put this group of suspects up high on the list. But so far, they say that any claims of responsibility or suspicions about who it is may have carried out this attack, so far are purely speculation. There is one bright spot in this very dismal night and that is the fact that the Indians report that they have grabbed up, maybe four, five, six of the terrorists themselves. And according to one intelligence official, unfortunately, India has a lot of experience in dealing with these situations. Terrorist attacks and terrorists and that it shouldn't take them too long through interrogations and whatever evidence they can find to walk backwards to try to figure out exactly who it is before anybody goes off half-cocked. And creates a situation that neither side may be able to draw back from. David?

SHUSTER: NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. I'm going to ask to you stand by and let's bring in MSNBC military analyst Colonel Jack Jacobs. And Jack, as we were hearing earlier, the situation continues to unfold. At least one of the hotels, by all accounts, the Indian security forces essentially decided they were not going to negotiate. They decided to take out the terrorists even if they were holding hostages, explaining the risks and the rewards for Indian security forces in that situation as they try to storm this remaining hotel where apparently the situation is not under control.

COL. JACK JACOBS, (RET), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, this unsophisticated group probably is not sophisticated enough to have booby trapped stairwells and so forth which is what people who really know how to do this would do, making it extremely difficult for security forces to enter and try to free the hostages or eliminate the terrorists. The way to go about this is to get to the top of the building as quickly as possible and work down. Which means the terrorist and the hostages are most likely going to be all the way upstairs. As you suggest, there is not a lot of negotiating with terrorists here. And the result of that typically is all the terrorists dead and quite a few of the hostages either killed or wounded. One other point, we were talking about the fact that some of the terrorists were killed and some were captured. I don't know this for sure but I had one call that said that that occurred out at the train station. And that the largest number of people who were wounded and killed were also at the train station. And one can envision a circumstances in which the terrorists began firing, exploding hand grenades and the like, and that security forces which are armed over there at the train station then began opening fire in a very crowded environment. And it is difficult to tell who kill whom and who wounded whom. That's what the majority of the casualties had occurred. But trying to rescue hostages in a circumstance like this in which you have people who probably have no interest whatsoever in being taken alive is going to be very damaging. Principally to the hostages.

SHUSTER: Well, as we try to put the train station some perspective, I was told earlier tonight that the train station is massive. It's as if you combine Grand Central and Penn Station, for anybody who is familiar with the size of those two large train stations in New York, put them together and that begins to come close to how big the train station is. But back to NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Jim, how well regarded is the U.S. military regard, the anti-terror forces in India, specifically, some of the teams that may be involved in the situation as we speak?

MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, you know, the military and intelligence officials say they're actually quite skilled at it. Because unfortunately, as we said earlier, they've had a lot of practice. There have been a series of attacks, terrorist attacks inside India for a number of years. But the key tonight, according to U.S. officials, is still trying to find out definitively exactly who it is carried out this attack. And when Condoleezza Rice made that call to her counterparts in India, she was not only trying to tell the Indians that the U.S. would provide whatever kind of material and intelligence that it could offer, but it was also an attempt as we understand it, to try to draw them back from jumping to any conclusions about what may have, or who may be responsible. And intelligence officials say it is too early to jump to any conclusions about whether this is al Qaeda, whether it is the Lashkar-e-Taiba, whoever it is. But again, they do say that it was so sophisticated and well coordinated, it indicated there was a long period of preplanning before this was carried out. And that it would be somebody very high up the chain of terrorists and militant organizations in that region which could put this Lashkar-e-Taiba group into the possibility that they were responsible for this attack. Now nobody knows who the Deccan Mujahideen are. That is a claim that was made earlier. And a previously unknown group. They think it may be a known terrorist group, simply throwing that name out, to throw investigators off the scent at least temporarily. But again, I do mention that they do have about a half dozen of these terrorists in custody who will be interrogated. And there is some hope that they will shed some light on exactly who is responsible for this attack before the night is out.

SHUSTER: All right, Jim. Thank you very much. We are of course trying to get the latest information from Mumbai on the ground there and joining us now is Riz Khan, he is with al Jazeera English. He joins us by phone. And Riz, what is the latest information you're picking up from Mumbai and what are you hearing?

RIZ KHAN, AL-JAZEERA ENGLISH: They're saying a number of the terrorists, the attacker are being killed. They say five have been killed. The authorities, there is not a lot of information coming from the authorities. But generally the word is that there is still some unresolved issues with the Taj Hotel and the Trident Hotel. You have to keep in mind, the Taj is like a major landmark. Like the Empire State Building equivalent, if you like, if Mumbai is compared with New York in India. And the situation on the streets is tough. Because they've got forces out now with the Army actually showing a presence, police carrying pistols, roadside checks and so on. A lot of bloodied people walking around in the areas where the attacks took place. But it is still pretty much a mess. They're trying to get control of the city but the attacks were across such a widespread area. It will take some time to really get an idea of what is going on. And get a proper grip on the situation.

SHUSTER: Riz, is it the expectation death toll which stands at 80, that's going to rise pretty dramatically once they go into these scenes and try to figure out exactly what happened. Because it sounds like there are still some hostage situations that they simply can't get people out until those situations have been resolved.

KHAN: That's right. One of the issues that has to be kept in mind, Mumbai is a city that has incredible density of pea. In the greater sort of Mumbai area, there are about 19 million people. So it is really flooded with a huge mass of humanity. Any of these areas can be affected. As for the attacks, they were fairly precise on the locations. It is quite possible they wouldn't be a lot more in terms of death toll. That will really depend on what's happening in each location. But there certainly are some unresolved issues. They're saying there are about 100 people stuck in that main hotel, the historic Taj Hotel by India Gate on the water. Again, a very big landmark in the city. But there are all kinds of issues that the police and the authorities have to consider. They have said they will close schools and colleges tomorrow to try to keep people off the streets. It's possible they might make it some sort of curfew which will keep too many people being on the streets. Certainly they've got the issue of trying to resolve what's happening with the active siege in a number of locations right now, and the kind of confrontations they're having directly. Gun battles with the terrorists.

SHUSTER: A remarkable scene in Mumbai. Riz Khan from al Jazeera English, thank you, Riz. We appreciate the report. Also thanks to NBC's Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski and Retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs. We're going to continue with our coverage of the situation in Mumbai in just a moment and try to put this in broader perspective including those reports that in fact Westerners were specifically targeted. You're watching our coverage here on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard blasts much later. That is about 11:30 or so. That is loud blasts one after the other and then huge blasts after that. Which I believe blew up the main top of the dome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were having dinner in the Indian restaurant. And two gunmen came in with guns. They took us up the elevator, up the fire exit shaft. Lots of smoke and firing guns and took us to the 18th floor. I think they were trying to get to the roof. A lot of smoke. And I guess bombs. And that's it. Me and my friend escaped down the fire exit. But I think they took some more people upstairs. They tried to get to the roof.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER: And at this hour, the situation continues to unfold in Mumbai, India. Mumbai is the financial capital of India. Literally tens of thousands of Westerners there and some significance to the attacks because the attacks, because the attacks in the hospital, the movie theater, train station, two luxury hotels, a number of reports the terrorists specifically tried to separate out the British and Americans who might have been there. Let's to go now to NBC News terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann. And Evan, put this in sort of the broader context for us. Given the specific nature of targeting Westerners, Americans and British, given the symbolism of these particular sites. What do you make of it all?

EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST (on phone): Well, I would be very careful about assuming in the al Qaeda. In fact, obviously we don't know anything right now. But at least from what we've seen in terms of the way the attack was carried out, etc, it actually does not look like al Qaeda. I think there is this sort of common logic that if there are multiple simultaneous coordinated attacks that means al Qaeda and that is just not the case. I think if you look at the characteristics of this attack, I think there are really two groups that stand, that come to mind as being likely. Number one, as has been previously mentioned. Kashmiri separatist groups, most prominently, Lashkar-e-Taiba and also Jaish Mohammed. Jaish Mohammed which is a Pakistani organization works very, very close with the Taliban and with al Qaeda. And it certainly could have a role in this. Lashkar has had a role in planning multiple different terrorist attack inside of India. In 2001, Lashkar actually launched two different attacks in New Delhi, one against a popular tourist landmark and another one against the Indian Parliament. So certainly, they've carried out attacks on this scale before. Separately, aside from the Kashmiri separatist groups, I think you also have to look at home grown extremist movements from within India. Those haven't gotten a lot of play so far. Particularly one group, the Students Islamic Movement of India, SIMI, which has worked with groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and which is proscribed in India. And I certainly don't want to blame anyone yet but I think if you look at this, I think calling this a fedayeen style attack, a commando style is accurate. I mean, this is what this is. This is a characteristic attack of local groups based in India and Pakistan. It does not appear immediately that at least the specifics of the attacks contour to what al Qaeda would do. The lack of sophisticated explosives, apparently the lack of a large number of suicide bombers or prominent suicide attackers, these are all things I would put a lot of caution into assuming that al Qaeda had any direct role in this.

SHUSTER: Thank you, Evan Kohlmann, NBC News analyst. Evan, thanks, sir for that. We appreciate it. Our coverage is going to continue next with more on the Mumbai attack.

You're watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER: It is just after 6:00 a.m. in Mumbai, India. A city that is 10 and a half hours ahead of the East Coast of the United States. And the situation is still extremely chaotic. Reports that standoffs continue between Indian security forces and terrorists who have targeted eight different locations tonight. And we just got a new report that 11 policemen were among those killed in the series of attacks. It is not clear if this is included in the 80 people already said to be killed. But again, Indian officials say 11 policemen lost their lives in the attacks tonight. Let's to go Bob Windrem, NBC News senior investigative producer. And Bob, one of the groups, one group claiming responsibility called the Deccan Mujahideen. I understand that Deccan means southern. Can we read anything into this group? Or what are terrorism analysts saying about it?

BOB WINDREM, NBC NEWS PRODUCER: They're unfamiliar with it. They are as unfamiliar in India as they are in the United States. This is not a known group. It could very well be a cover. It could be essentially a false claim. But no one has any information about these guys.

SHUSTER: What is the general consensus in the intelligence community when you look at the scope of this attack? Eight different locations carried out simultaneously but not the most sophisticated in terms of, it doesn't appear anything beyond hand grenades and automatic weapons. There may be small explosive devices. When you put all that together, what does that suggest?

WINDREM: Well, as Evan said, it could suggest a number of things. And I think he is probably correct when he says it is probably not al Qaeda. Obviously, we do not know. And one point, I think that Evan made, that is one thing that I was thinking as well is we have not seen suicide bombers in this. And remember, al Qaeda strategy is based on the use of suicide bombers. Whether that is the al Qaeda central, whether it is al Qaeda in Iraq. These were people who are fighting and still fighting in some of these areas. So that gives me pause as to whether it is an al Qaeda group. The other issue that we have to look at here that is quite concerning and quite concerning, I'm sure, to counterterrorism officials in the United States, particularly in large cities. This was a very inexpensive attack. We're talking about perhaps, $5,000 or less to carry this out. And it shut down one of the world's great cities. You're talking about AK-47s, you're talking about small explosives, as you said. And we're talking about hand grenades. These are not expensive things. These are not things that are difficult to obtain, particularly in a country like India. And the manner in which it appears they got into the city is something else. They appeared to come in on small boats. Small boats with explosives were found offshore this afternoon after the attacks had started. So it is very difficult, I think, at this point and this certainly what U.S. intelligence officials are saying, to pinpoint blame for this.

SHUSTER: Bob Windrem at our headquarters in New York. Bob, thank you very much.

WINDREM: Sure thing.

SHUSTER: Let's being in now Frank Wisner who served as U.S. ambassador to India and Ambassador Wisner, first of all, the symbolism of the both the Taj Hotel, the Trident Hotel, the train station, take us through that.

AMBASSADOR FRANK WISNER, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO INDIA: These are the two hotels, the Taj and the Oberoi are the most Western-visited hotels in the city. They are great architectural monuments. The Taj Hotel sits next to the site where the British Army officers left at the time of Indian independence. These are very prominent-The train station is probably the most frequented train station of any train station in the world. The Victoria Terminal. So the terrorists picked their targets well. They picked them to get maximum notoriety. And they've succeed in producing literally, in Indian materials, an unprecedented attack.

SHUSTER: Ambassador Wisner, at this hour we understand the situation continues. That the Indian forces are continuing to try to storm at least one of the hotels and trying to sort of essentially tend situation. Describe Mumbai for us. As we put up the map how complicated or difficult would it be for forces to go the seven or eight different locations at once in a city with 19 million people?

WISNER: Well, I'm not quite sure that they are trying to take seven locations all at the same time. I had not heard that. Rather, I think that the assault will probably be called against the hotels where hostages are held and where there is active resistance. But that said go we can't make light of this. This is a very, very serious incident. It comes on the heels of incidents of terror inside of India over the last several years with increasing severity. And it reminds one that India is in the path of harm and that we the United States and India have a serious common cause in dealing with the threat of terror. And good room to do some cooperative work and understand what terrorists are doing and join each other in the struggle against them.

SHUSTER: Ambassador Frank Wisner, former ambassador to India, thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.

WISNER: Pleasure to be with you. Good luck.

SHUSTER: Again, it's a situation that continues to unfold with Indian security forces continuing to try to clear out at least one of the hotels. It unclear what the other locations are at the other eight locations that were attacked. But again, reports of at least 80 people killed tonight. Perhaps as many as 900 wounded, according to the "Indian Times", one of the largest news organizations in the country. We'll come back with the latest right here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER: As the situation with the terrorist attacks continues to unfold in Mumbai, India, and the standoff continues and Indian security forces continue to try to end things, this is, of course, something that is being kept watch on very closely by the Bush administration. NBC's Kevin Corke is at the White House with the latest. Kevin?

KEVIN CORKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: David, good evening to you. We have received a statement from the White house. This from press secretary Dana Perino. President Bush offers his condolences to the Indian people and the families of the innocent civilians who have been killed and injured in the attack in Mumbai. The United States condemns this terrorist attack and will continue to stand with the people of India in this time of tragedy. The statement goes on to say this afternoon, the White House National Security Council convened with officials from counterterrorism and intelligence agencies as well as the State and Defense Departments. We have been reporting that tonight here on MSNBC. The U.S. government continues to monitor the situation as well as the safety and security of American citizens who are in the area and stands ready to assist and support the Indian government. We're also told the president who left here this afternoon continues to be updated on the situation as he is expected to spend the next couple days over at Camp David not very far from here. We also know tonight, David, from senior White House officials, that intelligence official continue to meet here and the Situation Room remains active this evening. And it will likely remain that way for some time to come.

SHUSTER: NBC News White House correspondent Kevin Corke. Kevin, thank you very much. Lets bring in Roger Cressey who has sat in on countless of those meetings. And roger, explain what goes on in the White House Situation Room with the National Security Council during situations like this.

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, David, what Kevin was alluding to was the counterterrorism security group met this afternoon and it is chaired by the National Security Council staff. I used to do that in the old days. The intelligence community, Pentagon, State Department. And there is really two requirements. First is situation awareness. What's going on on the ground? So it is a gathering of information and intelligence and passing that on to the president and the national security adviser. The second part is identifying are any westerners or specifically Americans at risk. So the State Department through consular services is looking to identify all the possible Americans who might have been involved in this multiple attack event.

SHUSTER: How confusing is it in the White House Situation Room when it is obviously quite confusing in Mumbai given that some of the situations continue to appear to be hot?

CRESSEY: Well, what you see is it is monitoring all forms of media. So they're getting the same information we are. And sometimes it is the media that provides the most current information. What they'll then do is talk to the intelligence community, talk to the embassy in New Delhi, as well as the consulate in Dubai and corroborate and collaborate with each to ensure the proper picture is being painted. And then that information is passed to the security adviser and the president.

SHUSTER: And aside from the process, what do you make of this?

CRESSEY: Well, I think there are two questions. The first question is, is it only home grown? Because if it is just home grown, this is a much more narrow, focused investigation. The impact on U.S. interests is more limited. If there is a Pakistani element, obviously much bigger. And for the new president and his team, Pakistan is a huge priority. If this attack was related to Pakistani involvement, then you're going to see the new team having to deal with this within a broader Indian-Pakistan component in the early part of this administration.

SHUSTER: To put this in context, Pakistan and India of course are the two nuclear powers who have had a hot war along their border for years and years. And the fear, of course, is that it essentially could escalate.

Roger Cressey, we're going to have to ask to you stand by. One of the ways we're trying to get information out of this is for people in the middle situation. In New York is NBC travel editor Peter Greenberg who has spoken with somebody who is actually at the Taj Hotel. And Peter, why don't you fill us in on that?

PETER GREENBERG, NBC NEWS EDITOR: Well, the latest report, David, is that the 200 people locked inside the restaurant at the Taj, have been evacuated from the hotel. But the hotel still remains in a lockdown situation. The Marriott Hotel was initially reported as being attacked. That report turned out to be inaccurate. We're really focusing on the Taj and the Oberoi, the two hotels who sustained the most damage and of course the most injuries and deaths.

SHUSTER: And Peter, you were describing in a pretty dramatic detail earlier, an e-mail you got from one of your colleagues who was there who described police actually moving in on two of the terrorists?

GREENBERG: Actually moving in on five of them. They've isolated five terrorists on the sixth floor of the terrorists and the police were preparing to storm the floor. And isn't that interesting that the fire you saw earlier on the videotapes was the sixth floor right there in the corner.

SHUSTER: All right now. Roger Cressey, first of all, given that they were targeting Americans, some indications reporting they were separating the British from the Americans, how does it all fit together with this?

CRESSEY: Dave, that's the most significant development. If you look in the past, you have not seen the operatives going into the attack, pulling aside Westerners. As Bob Windrem mentioned earlier, the hallmark of al Qaeda attacks is to go in, suicide bomb, kill as many as possible. Here, you have both. Large scale casualties at the train station and elsewhere but also an attempt to pull aside Western hostages. So for those individuals who are now custody, some of the attackers that were arrested, interrogating them and identifying who exactly was behind it and why they were looking to pull aside Westerners as hostages is going to be one of the key issues of the interrogation.

SHUSTER: As this is evolving, and again, every indication that a couple situations continue with Indian security forces trying to essentially storm or take down the hostage takers, what, if anything, could the United States do other than simply monitor the information, try to go through the intelligence and provide some analysis?

CRESSEY: We can pretty much do absolutely nothing. This is a situation that is going to play out in a matter of hours. So there's no U.S. assets be it intelligence or military that would be available in the short period of time. Really, we're going to watch and hope the Indians can resolve this peacefully to the extent of allowing the Western hostages to be released and deal with the residual terrorists that are still there.

SHUSTER: We saw a report earlier, that the State Department is saying that at least all of its employees in Mumbai have been accounted for and are fine. Is that part of sort of channeling information and trying to keep track and providing what information can be provided through various agencies.

CRESSEY: Absolutely. There's two elements of the western community. The official element of the embassies and the consuls in the case of Mumbai and then tourists, private sector employees. There's a large Western component in Mumbai of private sector employees. The consulate of the United States and Great Britain are going to track down all members of the community who are there permanently and ascertain their status.

SHUSTER: We described, again, for the people joining us the number of locations that were attacked. Train station, one of the largest and busiest in the world, the two luxury hotels, the two nicest luxury hotels most populated by Westerners, a movie theater was attacked, a police station. Clearly a lot of symbolism in the attack and yet it wasn't as sophisticated as the kind terrorist attacks we are used to seeing these days.

CRESSEY: Right. A lot of what we've heard so far was this was a low-tech attack but very well coordinated. So soft targets such as transportation nodes and hotels. Iconic targets such as the Taj Hotel. So it guarantees the type of publicity the terrorists want, but also ensures a high casualty count but also the level of international focus that could lead to the type of airing of grievances if that in effect is what's going on here. But again, until we identify who is behind it, what their objectives were, it's a little premature to assign responsibility.

SHUSTER: Finally, much confidence in Indian security forces and their ability to end this?

CRESSEY: Well, what's unfortunate is that Indian security forces have had a lot of practice with this because of all the various terrorist activity throughout their country. What it's going to come down to is the terrorists holding the hostages. Once that site is stormed by Indian authorities, are they going to turn their weapons on the Indian military or are they going to turn the weapons on the hostages? And let's hope for the best.

SHUSTER: Awful situation, indeed. Roger Cressey, MSNBC and NBC terrorism analyst. Roger, thanks as always. Also, thanks to Peter Greenberg, NBC News travel editor. Our coverage is going to continue next with more on the Mumbai attack. You're watching MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in my hotel room on the 19th floor, there was a series of explosions. I didn't leave the room. I didn't know what it was. Then, there was a lot of smoke. You could smell it, a smoke alarm went off. There was a serious amount of smoke coming under the doors. So it was time to get out of the room at which point I opened the door and there was all type of darkness, smoke everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You decided to take the lift back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no lift. So it was finding the fire escape and going down that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER: Daylight is about a half hour away in Mumbai, India. And when it comes it will reveal a very cosmopolitan city essentially in lockdown. More than 80 people killed, perhaps as many as 900 wounded in a series of terrorist attacks. And according to Indian security officials, the situation continues at a couple of spots with the stand off continuing through this morning now Indian time. On the phone is Tyler Drumheller, who served as the CIA's chief of European operations. Tyler, first of all, what do you make of all this?

TYLER DRUMHELLER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, I think what you are seeing is the real future threat of terrorism. We have to worry about nuclear attacks and biological attacks from terrorist groups. Terrorists don't like to try things that don't have an effect. And this is something, an attack like this, you need the people, you need guns, you need cell phones and watches. And that's about all you need. And if you have people willing to take the risk and do the fighting, then you are guaranteed a result. Because again, as I said earlier, what they are trying to do is show whoever they are, whatever their long term goal is, their immediate goal is to show the state, the government can't protect the people or visitors or tourists, businessmen. And that is a lot of what I think is probably involved in separating British and American tourists or businessmen. And so it's going .

SHUSTER: Tyler Drumheller, we're out of time. Former CIA European operations chief. Tyler, thanks for joining us and giving us your perspective tonight. Again, just to wrap up, at least 80 people killed, perhaps as many as 900 injured. And the situation continues to develop. Indian officials continue to try to storm and root out the terrorists who struck at least eight different locations, including a movie theater, hospital, two luxury hotels frequented by Westerners. That will do it for us. I'm David Shuster. Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. From all of us at HARDBALL to all of you watching, stay safe and Happy Thanksgiving. COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END

www.ascllc.net ) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC's copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.>

Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,