Saturday, November 29, 2008

After Four Days, Mumbai Terrorist Siege Ends

The city of Mumbai can finally breathe a sigh of relief as Indian authorities say that they've finally ended the terrorist siege inside the city.
Government officials said Saturday afternoon that the death toll had risen to 162 and was likely to rise again. They also said 283 people had been wounded.

Most of the dead were apparently Indian citizens, but at least 18 foreigners were killed and 22 had been injured, said Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra State. At least five Americans were believed to have died in the attacks.

Just 10 militants, the city’s police commissioner suggested Saturday, had caused all the mayhem.

“With confidence I can say that 10 terrorists came in,” said the commissioner, Hasan Gafoor. “We killed nine of them and one was captured alive.”

His comments were confirmed by Mr. Deshmukh, although it remained unclear whether they might have been referring to 10 attackers coming in by sea to join accomplices who, according to unconfirmed local news reports, might have embedded themselves in Mumbai days before the attacks. Investigations were ongoing Saturday night.

A senior Mumbai police inspector, Nagappa R. Mali, identified the captured suspect as a 21-year-old Pakistani man, Ajmal Amir Kasab. Mr. Mali said the man had a fourth-grade education and worked as a laborer.

Four other suspected terrorists were at the morgue at the JJ Hospital in Mumbai. Officials there put their ages between 20 and 25. All four were males.
According to the Times of India, the death toll has risen to 195, and it's expect to rise further still. Now that the fighting has ended, the grieving can begin for those affected by the attacks, including the members of India's law enforcement and security forces that died in the line of duty attempting to stop the terrorist attacks.

The terrorists acted with great precision and there are more details about the group of ten terrorists that entered the city from the sea.
Ten men, all apparently in their early 20s, jumped out. They stripped off orange windbreakers to reveal T-shirts and blue jeans. Then they began hoisting large, heavy backpacks out of the boat and onto their shoulders, each taking care to claim the pack assigned to him.

Mr. Dhanur flipped his boat light toward the men, and Kashinath Patil, a 72-year-old harbor official on duty nearby, asked the men what they were doing.

“I said: ‘Where are you going? What’s in your bags?’ “ Mr. Patil recalled. “They said: ‘We don’t want any attention. Don’t bother us.’ “

Thus began a crucial phase of one of the deadliest terrorist assaults in Indian history, one that seemed from the start to be coordinated meticulously to cause maximum fear and chaos.

Indian officials had said little publicly about the attackers until Saturday, when the Mumbai police commissioner, Hasan Gafoor, said a total of 10 militants had been responsible for the mayhem. But it remained unclear whether he was referring to 10 attackers arriving by sea to join other accomplices. Unconfirmed local news reports suggested some militants had embedded themselves in Mumbai days before the attacks. Investigations were ongoing Saturday night. In any event, the synchronized assaults suggested a high level of training and preparation.
There are also reports that the terrorists hoped to blow up the Taj hotel.
The terrorists had enough explosives to blow up the Taj hotel.

Sources have told the TV channel that they wanted to reduce the life-size building of Taj hotel to rubble. They also believed to have told about their plan to replicate a ‘JW Marriot’, happened at Islamabad, to the Mumbai hotel.

In a sense to destroy the symbol of financial strength of the country and send shock-waves all across the globe, the terrorists wanted to do a 9/11 in India.

The above revelation came from the 21 year old Azam Amir Kasav, who hails from tehsil Gipalpura in Pakistan's Faridkot.

On Wednesday-Thursday night Azam and his colleague opened fire at CST before creating havoc at Metro and then moving on to Girgaum Chowpatty in a stolen Skoda, and where they were intercepted by a team from the Gamdevi police station. Azam shot dead assistant police inspector Tukaram Umbale.

But in that encounter Azam's colleague was killed and he himself was injured in the hand. He pretended to be dead giving rise to the news that two terrorists had been killed. However as the 'bodies' were being taken to Nair Hospital, the accompanying cops figured that one of the men was breathing.
It may take more than a year to repair the damage to the Taj hotel, and the cost will be considerable.

Meanwhile, India is going to have to undergo serious review of its security plans in light of the fact that so many terrorists infiltrated from the sea; it's a gaping hole in India's security that had not been addressed previously.

Many of the questions that dogged investigators from the outset remain, including who was behind the attacks, and what role if any was played by Pakistan. The latter question is one that is seriously concerning US officials, and it should worry everyone considering that India and Pakistan have fought three vicious wars and both now have nuclear arsenals, to say nothing of the fact that both India and Pakistan have regularly engaged in gun battles across the Line of Control for much less.

Mickey Kaus wonders whether the attacks were meant to be a Madrid-bombing styled attack designed to affect the outcome of India's elections. However, increased security in November may have delayed or thwarted the attack from happening at that time.

Terrorist groups with links to Pakistan are at the focus of who carried out the attacks, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Pakistan was behind them. Still, one has to wonder whether rogue agents within the Pakistani ISI could have been involved, and Pakistan has previously been implicated in the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Why the attacks occurred is actually a more pressing question than who carried them out since the political ramifications will differ greatly as should the response by India.

It's clear that an Islamist terrorist group was behind the attacks, and the question remains which one. The attacks weren't simply meant to be a random act of violence, but one that shocks and threatens all of India. I think that the attacks were meant to threaten the growing peace overtures between India and Pakistan. The jihadi groups want to prevent India and Pakistan from engaging in rapprochement and closer ties. That would seriously harm the ability of the jihad to move forward if the Pakistanis become friends with the nation that they've fought multiple wars and skirmishes with over the past 50+ years.

When you look at the attacks from that angle, it makes perfect sense. Give the impression that Pakistan was behind the attacks, and India has to make the determination that it was an act of war that must require a response - out of domestic pressure to respond and seek justice for those killed, and to prevent future attacks. Get India to strike at Pakistan, and the jihadis get to spread via the violence and discord sown in their wake.

Mickey Kaus alternatively suggests the possibility that the attacks may have been meant to affect the outcome of India's November elections but were delayed as a result of tighter security. In other words, they were hoping for a Madrid bombing outcome - get the current government thrown out in favor of one that is more likely to appease in the face of increasing terrorism.

Throw in the specter that the ISI could have played a role (thus far only speculation), and you can see just how dangerous this situation is for all of South Asia.

Meanwhile, MSNBC reports that one of the captured terrorists allegedly said that his fellow terrorists intended to blow up the Taj Hotel, killing thousands of people, but that his fellow terrorists underestimated the strength of the stone walls. The report also indicates that the terrorists continue to plumb the depths of depravity by boobytrapping bodies with grenades while the Black Cats - India's elite military group had to go room to room to clear them of terrorists.

Pressure is already mounting on the Indian government to take action against Pakistan, which as I've already noted will lead to dire consequences for all of South Asia and the world beyond.

Jammie notes that Bollywood's reaction to the terrorist attack in Mumbai is far different than the reaction of the Hollywood types here in the US, although we'll see how long that lasts.

Here's still more eyewitness accounts of the siege at the Taj hotel. The Black Cats, the nickname of India's counter-terrorist strike force NSG, was instrumental in ending the siege. Here's a brief background on the group. Residents of Mumbai were busy issuing their thanks to the NSG members who helped bring the siege to an end.

Barcepundit has a great roundup, and notes that there was apparently a failed attack against the Mumbai airport. Indeed, the attack failed when the taxi made a wrong turn and the bomb within detonated short of the airport itself.

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