Nov 27, 2008

World - Bush, Obama condemn Mumbai attacks, U.S. offers help

Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House and President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned the deadly attacks in Mumbai, India, as the U.S. government convened defense and intelligence officials and offered help to Indian authorities.

"President Bush offers his condolences to the Indian people and the families of the innocent civilians killed and injured in the attacks in Mumbai," the White House said in a statement issued after the U.S. leader left for the Camp David presidential retreat for the Thanksgiving holiday.

It said the White House National Security Council had convened officials from counterterrorism and intelligence agencies as well as the State Department and Pentagon to discuss the Mumbai attacks.

"The U.S. government continues to monitor the situation, including the safety and security of our citizens, and stands ready to assist and support the Indian government," the White House said.

The State Department said there were no known American casualties in the attacks, in which at least 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded, but the White House said it was still "assessing the hostage situation."

Indian television reported that Western hostages were being held in two five-star hotels where gunmen had carried out coordinated strikes.

With the crisis still unfolding in Mumbai, Obama -- who takes office on Jan. 20 -- quickly weighed in.

"President-elect Obama strongly condemns today's terrorist attacks in Mumbai," Brooke Anderson, his spokeswoman on national security, said in statement.

"These coordinated attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of terrorism," she said. "The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks.

"We stand with the people of India."

The White House also denounced the attacks, which targeted sites frequented by Western tourists, and said it was seeking further information.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was closely monitoring the situation, a State Department official said.

"The Secretary will be reaching out to officials at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and at the consulate in Mumbai. She will be reaching out to Indian government officials as well. The situation on the ground is extremely fluid," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The State Department has created a call center for Americans seeking any information on relatives or friends affected by the attacks. The number is 1-888-407-4747.

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