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Foreign Minister confirms one Australian death.



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2CN AM Foreign Minister confirms one Australian death

28/11/2008

Foreign Minister confirms one Australian death

AM - Friday, 28 November , 2008 08:18:00

TONY EASTLEY: Australia's foreign minister, Stephen Smith is in London and he's been briefing journalists on what's known about Australians caught up in the terrorist attacks in India.

Stephen Smith you've been in contact with your people in India. What's the latest on Australian victims there?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well I can confirm one Australian casualty. I can say that we're very gravely concerned about a second possible Australian fatality. I'm not in a position to confirm that but on the information that I have I'm gravely concerned about that…

TONY EASTLEY: Does that involve a 70-year-old or a man in his seventies also from Sydney?

STEPHEN SMITH: I'm not proposing to go to into details other than to say I'm gravely concerned that there may be a second Australian casualty or fatality. And then of course we have a number of Australians unaccounted for in the Oberoi Hotel and we're desperately concerned about the fact that we're not in a position to vouchsafe for the safety and security of a number of Australians in the Oberoi Hotel or indeed

who may have been in the Taj Mahal Hotel.

TONY EASTLEY: Mr Smith, do you have any reports about Australians who may be wounded and under treatment in hospitals at the moment?

STEPHEN SMITH: We've got three Australians who are injured. On at least one occasion, through all of the hospitals in Mumbai and on two occasions for some of them, our consular officers, our High Commission officers have done the rounds effectively of the Mumbai hospitals and my most recent advice which was early this morning Australia time is that there are no Australians in the hospitals and our officers have done that search very assiduously. So our primary concern is the unaccounted for Australians in the Oberoi Hotel in particular where hostilities are continuing.

TONY EASTLEY: But you said three Australians had been wounded, did you?

STEPHEN SMITH: Injured yes.

TONY EASTLEY: Oh injured…

STEPHEN SMITH: Not life threatening…

TONY EASTLEY: So there's no need to repatriate them for medical treatment at this stage?

STEPHEN SMITH: Not to my knowledge. My understanding is that their injuries are either superficial or such that can be treated there.

TONY EASTLEY: Members of the New South Wales trade delegation are not all accounted for. Is there a fear that they could be either being held hostage or merely sheltering in their rooms and out of contact?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well again I'm not proposing to go into detail or describe particular individual Australians but there are a number of Australians who we fear may be in that position. We know our offices have been able to contact some people, some Australians in the hotel, in their hotel rooms. But we also are very gravely concerned about Australians who we believe are in the hotel who we haven't been able to

make contact with. So yes, our worry is that there are Australians in that position.

TONY EASTLEY: And just briefly, Indian authorities say that these attacks have the hallmarks of foreign influence. Is that your understanding?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well I think it's very early to be making judgements about where this attack has come from. We've seen a public claim by the so-called Deccan Mujahideen, a group little know of. I've seen suggestions made that there may be, to use the phrase that the Indian Prime Minister used, external influences. I think it's early days.

What does concern me gravely about this attack is firstly its sophisticated coordination, a number of

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attacks at different locations; and secondly for the first time in India we see an attack which may well be primarily or exclusively aimed at Westerners or foreigners and suggestions that it may have been aimed at people from the United Kingdom or the United States. That's a disturbing development.

TONY EASTLEY: Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith in London.

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