29 Nov 2008

Cricket security guards save hotel hostages

8:12 am on 29 November 2008

A team of South African bodyguards in Mumbai, India, led 120 people to safety from a hotel seized by gunmen on Wednesday night.

The seven bodyguards were in Mumbai providing protection for cricketers in the Indian Premier League tournament, and were staying at the Taj Mahal hotel.

Security company director Bob Nicholls told the Beeld newspaper in South Africa they were eating in the restaurant and were planning to get an early night when they heard shooting in another part of the hotel.

They barricaded the doors shut with tables and refrigerators and kept the other guests calm while they worked out what to do.

Another team member, Faisul Nagel, told the AFP news agency they also turned off the lights and watched the lifts to see if the gunmen were coming their way.

When they realised the building was on fire, they began to move out.

Mr Nagel said the hotel security manager was asked to tell the police not to shoot, while they brought everyone down a fire exit at the back of the hotel.

One was a traumatised elderly woman who had to be carried down 25 flights of stairs in a chair.

Mr Nicholls said they had all been trained how to deal with threatening situations.

Gunmen attacked people at 10 sites in Mumbai on Wednesday night, opening fire on crowds at a major railway station, two hotels, a Jewish centre, a hospital and a cafe frequented by foreigners.

The attacks are the worst in India's commercial capital since 187 people were killed in a series of train bombings in 2006.