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Kingston Euro MP Syed Kamall tells of terrifying Indian ordeal
8:45am Tuesday 2nd December 2008 in News
A Euro MP from Kingston who left the Taj Mahal Palace hotel shortly before gunmen went on a murderous rampage has vowed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Mumbai.
Syed Kamall, 41, was on a trade delegation with six other Euro MPs before a series of attacks began which went on to kill at least 172 people and injure hundreds more.
Frightened colleagues, some who were trapped inside the hotel, others who narrowly escaped from the Leopold Cafe, are lucky to be alive.
But the MEP, who lives in Surbiton, said he would not be deterred from returning to the country from where his grandfather set sail in 1900 for a new life in Guyana.
"A lot of people are determined to do what we do in Britain and get on with it. We have to show them that we won't be intimidated," he said.
"I'm trying to go back in the New Year. I'm not going to let them win."
Excited by the prospect of seeing the city, four of the seven-strong delegation headed straight out to a nearby popular tourist restaurant called The Khyber after checking in last Wednesday evening. Minutes later the terrorists struck.
Dr Kamall said: "We were in the restaurant when I got a phone call from MEP Sajjad Karim who was in the basement. He said 'whatever you do, don't come back.' I thought it was a windup at first.
"One of the German MEPs was hiding in the kitchen. She texted us to say: 'It is dangerous. It is a bloody mess. Don't come back.'
"There were a few hours when we didn't realise what was going on but when we were told that they were targeting tourists, our restaurant was an obvious destination, we thought are they coming here next?"
They holed up for the night in a room above the restaurant, keeping away from the windows and fielding calls from frightened colleagues across the city and family members.
But three of his fellow MEPs were trapped inside the hotel and an assistant made a desperate call for help.
"He said he had heard bullets outside his room and people were knocking on the door. It was very scary. We said 'don't answer and keep quiet.'
"In the end he covered himself in a duvet and ran down the stairs, climbed over a garden wall and escaped. Looking back, it was very risky."
But Dr Kamall refused to give out his location to reporters for fear they would unwittingly betray their whereabouts to the terrorists.
"There were all sorts of stories going on," he said. "One story was that they were driving around in a police car shooting people. We found out that a petrol station had been blown up, a flyover been attacked and also a boat had been found with explosives in the harbour."
Two committee assistants were inside the Leopold Cafe, a backpacker bar, when gunmen burst in spraying automatic fire and killing around 10 people.
The delegation was eventually rescued from the restaurant by the Spanish consulate and Dr Kamall landed in Heathrow on Friday.
"I never thought I would be grateful to come back to such terrible weather," he said.
Dr Kamall has written off any chance of getting back the luggage, papers and laptop he left on the fourth floor of the Taj hotel.