Counter-Terrorism: The Magic Behind The Mumbai Madness

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December 12,2008: The Islamic terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, between November 26-29 demonstrated a new tactic, which basically consisted of a few well trained, well informed and heavily armed terrorists running amok in the congested downtown of a major city. The ten armed men, in civilian clothes and carrying bags with their AK-47s, grenades, explosives and ammunition, took cabs to, and shot up, a train station, a hospital, two hotels and a Jewish social center. The one surviving terrorists said the plan was to kill thousands of people, and create maximum chaos. Their plan to set off bombs didn't work out, although they used some explosives at the two major hotels they went to. Their plan to take lots of hostages and negotiate for the release of jailed terrorists, did not work. The Indians refused to negotiate, and sent in troops and commandos.

The terrorists split up into four teams and began operations about 9 PM on the 26th. Four men went to the Taj Hotel, and held out until the morning of the 29th. Two went to the Oberoi hotel, and the shooting lasted until 8 AM on the 28th. Another two went to Nariman house (the Jewish social center), and held out until 8:30 PM on the 28th. Two terrorists went to a train station, killing people and setting bombs that did not go off. These two were intercepted by police as they drove to an up-scale residential neighborhood. One terrorist was killed, the other was taken alive and has provided most of the details of the operation.

The ten terrorists did major damage (mainly with bombs and fire) to two large hotels. They killed 163 people, most of them Indian civilians, and wounded over 300. Because of the civilians caught in the middle of all this, and the dozens held hostage for a time, police proceeded at times as if they could resolve the hostage situations peacefully. But the terrorists, in the end, were more about murder and mayhem, than negotiations.

Thus the confusion, media coverage, and 60 hour duration of the operation, got the terrorists the attention they sought. The terrorists had the element of surprise in their favor, and they made the most of it. But counter-terror forces have now seen this kind of attack, and are planning to make any similar attack in their neighborhood much less effective. Pulling off a similar type attack in the future will not likely be as successful. In any event, "success" is relative. The casualties and violence brought more criticism to Islamic radical groups, and is forcing Pakistan to confront its decades long support for Islamic radicals and terrorists.

 


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