Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Abdul Rahman Al Issa and Mohamed Al Issa were the last two Saudi Arabian nationals to be evacuated from the Taj Mahal hotel following the 14-hour siege that left over 172 people dead.
Throughout the siege the two cousins remained in room 1201 on the 23rd floor of the famous Taj Mahal hotel which was the scene of the bloody confrontation between terrorists and Indian security forces in Mumbai.
The Issa cousins’ arrival in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh yesterday was facilitated by the Saudi Arabian embassy in New Delhi and the Saudi Arabian consulate in Mumbai. Dozens of Saudis who remain in India wish to return home amid fears of renewed clashes in the city of Mumbai.
Abdul Rahman Al Issa highlighted to Asharq Al-Awsat the chaotic experience surrounding his ordeal in room 1201 with his cousin Mohamed, as well as how the Indian commando forces liberated them from the hotel.
Al Issa says that during the early stages of the confrontation he heard the cries of a western woman staying in the hotel room opposite his, as terrorists kidnapped her and took her away. He said ‘After I heard the cries of a woman who appears to be Western, I looked through the peephole in the door, and I saw terrorists whose uniforms were similar to those worn by Indian commandos kidnap her’.
Abdul Rahman Al Issa spoke of the difficult experience that both he and his cousin faced during the siege, speaking of how they were forced to drink water from the bathroom, after the supply of drinking water in their possession was exhausted.
The feeling of terror increased slowly, as the sounds of renewed shooting and explosions echoed through the hotel. According to Al Issa, the most terrifying moments occurred whenever someone would knock on the door of their hotel room. He said ‘Whenever somebody would knock on our door, they would keep quiet and not identify themselves. I repeatedly tried to discover the identity of the knocker, but the similar way in which the Indian commandos and terrorists were dressed made it difficult to identify who it was.’
He described the time he and his cousin spent inside their hotel room on the 12th floor of the Taj Mahal hotel saying ‘I used the long sofa in the room to barricade the door, and to try and repel the aftershocks of any explosions’.
But this terrifying experience was not without its moments of humanity, Abdul Rahman Al Issa, father of five boys and 2 girls said ‘I thought of my children fifty times each moment, my wife and my sister too. None of them was absent from my thoughts throughout the time I spent trapped’.
Regarding the Indian commando forces that dealt with liberating the Issa cousins, Abdul Rahman said ‘At the beginning the door of the room was blown apart by explosion, and then after 7 minutes a tear gas canister was thrown into the center of the room’. At this point, according to Issa ‘We decided to exit in order not to be surprised by bullets, and we shouted to the soldiers in English, We’re Saudi Arabian!’
He added ‘After the commando force had verified our identity, we were evacuated to the hotel lobby via the staircase since the elevators were not working. On our way down the stairs we walked through a river of blood and body parts’.