Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Terror Stikes Mumbai

Mumbai came under an unprecedented terror attack on the night of Nov. 26 when terrorists used heavy machine guns, including AK-47s, and grenades to strike at the city's most high profile targets inlcuding Taj Mahal Hotel & Tower, Oberoi Trident, CST Terminus, Santa Cruz Airport, Nariman House, Leopold Cafe, Colaba and 2 hospitals-Cama and GT. Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad(ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police (East) Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist Inspector Vijay Salaskar were killed in the combat operations against the terrorists. The official final death toll is put at 171 with over 300 injured while 9 terrorists were killed and one apprehended.
Operation ‘Black Tornado’
The series of attacks later unfolded into a hostage crisis the next day as militants were holed up at two iconic hotels–the Trident and the Taj – and at Nariman House, a building on Colaba Causeway that houses a few Jewish families. The Army, Navy and National Security Guards (NSG) enaged the militants in gunbattle.
At the Oberoi the operation got over at 3:30 pm on Nov. 28, after 41 hours, with the killing of the two terrorists. About 200 hostages emerged from the hotel. Officially, 30 people, including, two foreigners, are said to have died. There was no NSG casualty. Two AK-47s, a pistol, chinese-made hand grenades and satellite phones were found on the 8th floor.
The NSG commandoes declared the Nariman House as secured at 9 pm on Nov. 28. Two terrorists were killed. The bodies of five Israeli hostages were also found. An NSG commando, Gajendra Singh was among those killed. A huge cache of arms and ammunition was seized.
At the Taj the last bullet in 'Operation Cyclone' the commando operation at Taj – was fired at 8 am on Nov. 29. After that, unlike the Oberoi and the Nariman House, no one walked out alive. Four terrorists were killed and the NSG had recovered grenades, AK-47 rifles, pistols and mobile phones, but no RDX.
Preliminary Investigation: The terror attacks were similar to the attack on the Akshardham temple on Sept. 24, 2002, the one in Ayodhya on July 5, 2005, and the one at the RSS head-quartes in Nagpur on June 2, 2006. All the attacks were handiwork of the Lashker, which has been inspired by Al-Qaeda.
All the attacks were carried out by highly motivated, trained men in the 20 to 25 year age group. The attackers in all cases were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenades.
An injured terrorist was captured during the combat operations and was later identified as a resident of Faridkot, near Multan, in Pakistan's Punjab province. Based on the interrogation, it is understood that a group of Lashkar operatives left Karachi in a merchant ship early on Nov.26. Late that night, an estimated 10-12 fidayeen left the ship in a small boat and rowed some 10 nautical miles to Mumbai's Gateway of India area.
The fidayeen unit then split up into, at five groups, each focussing on a separate target: Mumbai's Nariman House, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus rail station, the Cama Hospital, the Girgaum seafront and the Taj and Trident Oberoi Hotels.
Another important disclosure which came out of the interrogation was that all the terrorists were trained in marine warfare along with the special cousre–Daura-e-Shifa-conducted by the Lasker-e-Taiba which transformed the nature of the planning from a routine terror strike into a specialised raid by commandoes.
These terror attacks across Mumbai are being considered a joint failure of the Customs, Coast Guards and the police. The three agencies have been jointly patrolling the seas after the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai.
It is believed that the terrorists entered the city from the shores at Sassoon Dock in Colaba and Badhevar Park near Cuffe Parade.
The young men who ravaged Mumbai were suicide fighters–planned, armed and committed for long battles, very different from shadowy hit and run suicide bombers. The real attack was in small teams of highly trained commando–like fighters capturing buildings, taking hostages and preparing for a siege. The targets were not random markets or innocent Indians, but westerners.
UNSC Meet: The United States, the UK, Russia and other countries have expressed sympathy and promised full cooperation and support to India at various levels to deal with the consequences of the attacks. The five permanent members have called a special meeting of the UN Security Council on Dec. 9, 2008 in the content of attacks and to decide on appropriate steps to be taken by the world community. Meanwhile, the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid a visit to India and promised to persuade Pakistan to take very direct and tough action. She assured India that the U.S. would work very closely to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice and prevent further strikes of such kind.
Response–The U.S. Precedent: India's response to terror is in sharp contrast to that of the United States. The U.S. has succeeded in blocking successive attempts to execute attacks on its soil since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. In contrast, despite credible intelligence that terrorists were planning attacks in Mumbai through sea route, India was unable to prevent the attacks.
Our police force of havaldars and sahibs are not equipped to counter the fearsome, global jihad. An ultra-modern, professional force should be created urgently to tackle ultramodern, professional terrorism. India should learn from the US and the UK that global terror cannot be fought without transforming our national security and keeping our diverse commu­nities safe. It is high time the citizens and the political parties stop suspecting those who are from different religion as it amounts to suspecting the nation of a secular, inclusive India which would allow terrorists to win.
Invest in Security: India has to understand that all terrorism does not necessarily emanate from Pakistan because India has faced attacks from Indian Islamists, Hindutva Groups, Organisations in the North-east, etc. The country needs to increase its investment in its own security. There is an urgent need for creating a new special Ministry for Internal Security dealing exclusively with Security and Intelligence, the coordination among and between various central and state level security agencies and more sense of account­ability for every lapse in execution.
At present, Maharashtra has 147 policemen for every 1 lakh population or 50 policemen to guard every 100 sq. kms. Even if police personnel are stationed at the places of probable terrorist targets, they cannot intervene effectively. Mumbai, the financial and nuclear capital of India has no specially-trained emergency response team or a crisis-management centre with an established drill to deal with a catastrophic terrorist assault.
Ultimately, terrorism can be effectively countered with a combination of full combat preparedness effective preventive measures, presence of brain, and taking intelligence warnings seriously.

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