Islamic terrorists have attacked targets in the Indian city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) killing, as of this writing, over a hundred people, wounding nearly three hundred, and taking numerous hostages. Indian security forces are responding,
The terrorists arrived at Mumbai by boat and began fanning out through the city, firing automatic weapons indiscriminately. The terrorists struck at luxury hotels, a railroad station, a popular restaurant, and a hospital. The terrorists took hostages at two Mumbai luxury hotels, the Taj Mahal and the Trident-Oberoi as well as the Chabad-Lubavitch center, a Jewish community center frequented by Israeli tourists.
The Islamic terrorists, calling themselves the Deccan Mujahedeen, apparently targeted American and British tourists, demanding to see passports, and then either shooting the tourists or taking them hostage. Israelis were also among the hostages. The Islamic terrorists are described as “South Asian” in their early twenties and may have ties of Al Qaeda, though that is disputed by some terrorism experts.
Indian security forces have freed numerous hostages from the Taj Mahal hotel and are as of this writing battling terrorists in the Taj Mahal and Trident-Oberoi hotels. Explosions and gun fire have been heard throughout the night and early morning in Mumbai.
India has had trouble with Islamic terrorists due to the dispute with neighboring Pakistan over the region of Kashmir, over which the two countries have fought two wars. India is also a close ally with the United States in the War on Terror and is increasingly making its influence felt on the world. India’s navy is helping to fight Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa. India has become a center of high tech commercial enterprises. India even has a space program, having recently placed a robotic probe in orbit around the Moon.
Mumbai is the financial capital of India and thus makes a choice target for Islamic terrorists trying to make publicity with mass casualty attacks. The so-called “Deccan Mujahedeen” may be a group comprised of members of two other terrorist groups, the Indian Mujahideen and the Lashkar-E-Taiba. The Indian Mujahideen is an offshoot of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), a home grown group that seems to have gotten backing from Pakistan. Lashkar-E-Taiba is based in Pakistan, has been fighting for home rule in Kashmir, and has ties to Al Qaeda.
Besides the casualties and destruction wrought by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the possible involvement of Pakistan is most disquieting about the incident. Pakistan is nominally also an American ally in the War on Terror. If it is proven that Pakistan had some involvement in the Mumbai attacks, conflict could erupt between the old enemies of India and Pakistan. Both countries, by the way, have nuclear weapons. Conflict between India and Pakistan, even if it does not erupt into full scale war, would complicate efforts to suppress the Islamic terrorist insurgency in Afghanistan and to deal with terrorists based in the neighboring Pakistani area of Waziristan.
The situation developing in South Asia appears to be yet another “test” that Joe Biden predicted would come for President Elect Barack Obama. The terror attack in Mumbai shoukd make Obama think long and hard about campaign promises concerning closing Gitmo, watering down the Patriot Act, and anything else that might be seen as dialing back on the War on Terror.
Sources: India sees “external link” as troops battle militants, Charolotte Cooper, Reuters, November 27th, 2008
Q+A: Who could be behind the Mumbai attacks and why?, Reuters, November 27th, 2008