Nine Israelis killed in Mumbai attacks: ministry

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Nine Israelis were killed in the attacks by Islamist militants that caused carnage in the Indian commercial capital Mumbai, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

"Eight bodies have been identified as being those of Israelis, some of them with dual Israeli and US nationality," the spokesman said.

"All eight were killed in Chabad House," said Yigal Palmor, referring to a Jewish cultural centre that was stormed by Indian commandos on Friday.

"A ninth victim has been identified by a relative, but initial information suggests that this person was not in Chabad House, and was not on the list of missing persons," he added.

Palmor said another four Israelis remain unaccounted for.

Israeli news websites said the three dead with Israeli and US nationality were the director of Chabad House, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, and two male staff who supervised Jewish dietary laws.

There were at least three women among the dead, including the rabbi's wife, Rivka.

The Holtzbergs' toddler son Moshe was rescued by the centre's cook, Sandra Samuel, who also worked as his nanny and who escaped with him and a caretaker 12 hours into the siege.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said some of the bodies had been tied up, and that two of the dead women had been killed many hours before.

"All in all, it was a difficult spectacle," the Internet edition of the Haaretz newspaper quoted Barak as saying late on Friday.

While acknowledging the complexity of ending the attacks across sprawling Mumbai, Barak said: "I'm not sure it had to last three days, but that's what happened."

He said Israel had offered all manner of help to India, including assistance "that is inappropriate to detail here."

A former head of Israel's Mossad spy agency, Danny Yatom, said the attacks revealed major failings in Indian intelligence as they "involved dozens of terrorists enjoying the support of numerous sympathisers."

"It is vital that the Indian security services draw the necessary lessons," Yatom told public radio.

The head of Israel's counter-terrorism department, Colonel Nitzan Nurieli, said the carnage had caught both Israeli and Indian security services on the hop.

"We have to acknowledge that in the Mumbai case our intelligence services did not have adequate advance knowledge and nor did the Indian security services," he said, urging Israeli tourists to avoid travel to northern India.

But embassy officials in New Delhi cautioned Israelis not to rush to criticise the Indian security forces despite the loss of life.

"This emphasises the need for all the international community, not just India and Israel, to act in a coordinated manner against terrorism," the embassy's deputy chief of mission Eli Belotsercovsky told Haartez.

Israeli websites said the bodies of the dead would be flown home for burial on Sunday.