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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Obama arrives, pays homage to Mumbai terror victims

6 Nov 2010

Mumbai:US President Barack Obama Saturday paid homage to victims of the Mumbai terror attack of 2008, saying those who organised it needed to be punished.

Addressing families of some of the dead at the Taj Mahal and Palace Tower Hotel, one of the targets of the Pakistani terrorists, Obama said he 'will never forget the awful image of 26/11'.

Calling the terrorists 'murderers', he said they sneaked into Mumbai to kill 'innocent civilians'.

A total of 166 Indians and foreigners, Americans included, were massacred when 10 terrorists from Pakistan went on a killing spree in Mumbai for three long days from Nov 26.

'Those who attacked Mumbai wanted to demoralize this city and this country but they failed,' he said.

'The very next day, Mumbaikars came back to work... Within weeks, this hotel was welcoming guests from around the world.'

He said the Indian and US governments were working more closely than ever to keep people safe by sharing intelligence.

He said he looked forward to deepening counter-terror cooperation 'when I meet Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh in New Delhi'.

With an hour of landing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Obama took off in a US helicopter and then his Cadillac to reach the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel at the edge of the Arabian Sea to pay homage to those who died in the terror attack.

After lunch at the Presidential Suite of the hotel, where he and his wife Michelle will spend Saturday night, he will go to Mani Bhavan, now a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, a childhood hero of the US president.

The US Air Force One carrying the Obamas landed on runway 14 at 12.48 p.m. after flying some 15 hours from Washington.

Obama, dressed in a black business suit, and Michelle walked out of the aircraft with their hands locked. Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and central Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, the minister-in-waiting for the US president, received them with warm handshakes.

The chief minister handed the president a gift packet and a bouquet to the US First Lady, who wore a grey dress with a three-string pearl necklace around her neck.

This is Obama's first visit to India -- and the first halt in a four-nation Asian tour that will take him to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.

It will be Obama's longest visit to any country since he assumed the presidency two years ago. On Sunday, Obama will reach New Delhi for talks with Indian leaders before leaving for Indonesia Tuesday.

Apart from Michelle, Obama is accompanied by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Security Adviser Tom Donillon and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Prior to his departure from the US, Obama said in a signed article in the New York Times that the US wanted 'to be known not just for what we consume, but for what we produce. And the more we export abroad, the more jobs we create in America. In fact, every $1 billion we export supports more than 5,000 jobs at home'.

Obama said his priority was to double US exports in the next five years.

The president will also visit St Xavier's college, where he will interact with select students, and address Indian business leaders.

In New Delhi, the US president will address Indian MPs.

Obama is pushing New Delhi to lift a cap on foreign investment in the defence sector while India wants more visas so high-tech workers can move to the US.

More than 200 US business leaders are also making the trip to India.

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