Image: Oberoi's Hotel
Gautam Singh  /  AP
Security personnel frisk journalists as they enter the Oberoi's Trident hotel Saturday on the eve of its reopening in Mumbai, India.
updated 12/20/2008 6:09:30 PM ET 2008-12-20T23:09:30

A Hindu priest chanted prayers and a Muslim cleric read from the Quran as the Trident Hotel at the Oberoi complex reopened amid tight security Sunday, three weeks after it was targeted in a militant rampage.

Sniffer dogs patrolled the grounds outside, police officers stood behind sandbag bunkers and guards checked bags and IDs as the hotel opened to guests for the first time since gunmen attacked the Oberoi and nine other sites across Mumbai on Nov. 26.

The band of accused Islamic militants killed 164 people over the course of a three-day siege, including dozens of guests and staff members at the sea-front Oberoi complex — home to the Oberoi and Trident hotels — and another luxury hotel, the iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower.

The main areas of the Oberoi and Taj hotels — severely damaged in the shooting sprees and a 60-hour standoff with police — are expected to remain closed for months.

But with the holidays approaching, the hotels rushed to open sections to guests, assuring them security has been upgraded with more private guards, sophisticated baggage and X-ray scanners, metal detectors and stringent ID checks.

The Taj Mahal Group said the tower wing of its hotel complex will reopen Sunday evening.

"There is grief, there is sadness, but the staff is committed to deliver 100 percent and there is absolute desire to bounce back as soon as possible," Trident Hotel President Rattan Keswani was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

At the Oberoi's Trident, where a month ago anyone could breeze through the lobby uninterrupted, the signs of stepped-up security contrasted with the hotel's trademark hospitality.

Guards at the entrance asked visitors for ID, meticulously searched their bags and put luggage through X-ray scanners.

Inside, candles flickered on the tables and flowers bedecked the sparkling, spotless lobby. With smiles, employees in the hotel's ivory saris handed guests a yellow flower or a small bundle of roses as they arrived.

Interfaith ceremony
The opening was marked with a simple ceremony in the lobby with Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Jain religious leaders.

"There is no fear. We see the courage of the people and the staff," said Kritika Srinivasan, 28, a regular guest at the hotel who went inside to congratulate the staff. "We have to show them (the attackers) that they can't break our courage and solidarity."

A German tourist checking in Sunday said she was going ahead with her vacation plans despite the attacks.

"All over the world such things are happening. You can have an accident even at home. Therefore we were not afraid to come to India," she said, only giving her first name, Angelika.

The Taj had stepped up security even before the attacks following the deadly car bombing at the Marriott in Islamabad, Pakistan, in September. 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 said.

Both the Oberoi and the Taj hotels have requested — and will be given — help to enhance security, a government official said.

"People do not need to worry about security. The state administration and the police would put in all efforts to prevent terror attacks in future," Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said Sunday, according to PTI.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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