JERUSALEM – An American rabbi said Sunday that he made phone contact with one of the Mumbai terrorists at a Jewish center where seven people were killed, describing a harrowing ordeal in which he could hear a woman's desperate cry for help.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov said he spoke to the gunman after calling the cellphone of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, one of the hostages at the ultra-Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch House who died in the attack.
"I tried and tried and tried, and in the end someone answered and said 'hello,"' Shemtov told Israel's Army Radio. Someone answered and said he was an Urdu speaker, so Shemtov found an Urdu speaker and dialed again. The man who answered "sounded very calm" and said his name was "Imran."
"He didn't want to tell me what he wanted. He said the rabbi was OK, everyone was OK, that if they did what he wanted he would free them." Shemtov asked the man not to hurt the hostages and promised to help him get in touch with the Indian government.
"I asked if we could hear the voice of the rabbi, or someone who was alive there, and we only heard the voice of one woman screaming in English, 'please help immediately,"' he said.
"I asked him to pass the phone to the rabbi. He said, 'You've already asked for too much."'
Shemtov called repeatedly, estimating he spoke to the man around five times. Eventually the assailant said the battery was dying and hung up.
Indian commandos raided the building before dawn Friday. When the raid ended at sundown, everyone inside the building was dead, including the 29-year-old Holtzberg and his 28-year-old wife.
The couple's toddler son, Moshe, was rescued by an employee and taken to his grandparents.