At Large

Murder and Mayhem in Mumbai

A carefully planned operation such as this required local contacts.

By 12.1.08

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A consistent theme of most of the world press has been what it considers the unusual nature of the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India. The fact is that the terrorist organization used what it had most readily available and organizationally useful: trained men and light arms.

The men who attacked multiple targets simultaneously were merely executing in a low-tech fashion the ordinary targeting associated with their political ambitions. Their operational and political logic is quite easy to divine. Their intent was to seek out foreigners, preferably British and Americans, symbols of Hindi economic success and decadence, a Jewish center in Mumbai, and lastly but most specifically, the local Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS).

On September 13, 2008, on the occasion of a series of bombings of markets and businesses in New Delhi, an e-mail threat reportedly was delivered by the organization "Indian Mujahideen" that in the future they would attack the ATS in Mumbai for harassing Moslems. Three other bombings in Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad already had been attributed to the IM since the previous May. In all 130 people had been killed.

There have been clear indications that the leadership of the IM wanted to embarrass the security forces of India's great financial and entertainment center of Mumbai by establishing and maintaining for as long as it could a military-type presence in this immense city. Bombings could not accomplish its sophisticated, if brutal, ambition and at the same time challenge the ATS directly. An actual special operations-type strike was required.

India, and Mumbai in particular, provides an environment of historical religious division that offers a ready support structure for terrorist operations. Diplomatically stated, Mumbai's police do not have a reputation for incorruption. Covert information gathering on security matters from cooperating local police, plus the widespread potential of materiel support from the city's long-time organized crime element and impoverished Moslem community, created access both to essential intelligence and physical assistance.

Much has been made of the possibility of terrorist personnel and equipment being off-loaded from an unidentified cargo ship. Transportation from the coast of such a force with all its weapons, ammunition, explosives and other equipment and supplies does require considerable local assistance. It would have been easier, and carry less security risk, if stockpiles had been created beforehand easily accessible to an infiltrating fighting force.

Similarly, both the Taj hotel and the Oberoi had professional security protection whose circumvention or countering necessitated a detailed casing operation beforehand. All this adds up to careful planning made possible by well-developed local assets providing accurate information. What carried all the earmarks of a well-trained operation was actually a carefully thought out covert operations procedure -- information for which was available through many public sources.

It is the execution phase of this activity that indicated the personnel involved had professional-level training and well-disciplined motivation. The Indian Mujahideen, of which the Daccan Mujahideen (the group taking responsibility) is said to be just another useful nomenclature, had already been cited by Indian government authorities as an operating instrument of Lashkar-e-Toiba. The LET has been said to be a Pakistani intelligence-aided instrument originally created to operate against Indian rule in Kashmir.

The connection to Lashkar-e-Toiba is also indicated by the lightning strike force tactics that had been used in the past by LET-associated Moslem terrorists in their attacks on Kashmiri targets. There are many terrorist elements that have been aligned with al Qaeda, gaining both financial and material aid. LET is considered one of these -- though quite independent of al Qaeda's directives.

Ultimately the bloody attacks in Mumbai were aimed at a propaganda objective. The lavish international lifestyle of the Indian city that has become the subcontinent's finance center and film capital has taken a direct hit. The attacks have also embarrassed Pakistan's President Zardari, who had only recently sought to reinvigorate peace talks with India.

Disruption of normal life in this most cosmopolitan of Indian cities also sends a message around the globe that nations cannot ignore the Islamic ambitions in South Asia. The mayhem in Mumbai is a forceful reminder that jihad is not limited to any particular region, but has worldwide objectives.

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About the Author
George H. Wittman writes a weekly column on international affairs for The American Spectator online. He was the founding chairman of the National Institute for Public Policy.