Reports out of Mumbai (Bombay), India, indicate that the terrorist attacks that began after a series of bomb blasts and indiscriminate and targeted gunfire have resulted in the deaths of at least 125 people. Over 325 have been wounded. Hostages are still being held at one (perhaps two) locations. A fire still rages at the 105-year-old Taj Mahal Hotel where hostages had been held and terrorists are still suspected of being holed up. A far worse fire currently rages on the fourth floor at the Oberoi Hotel, trapping at least thirty people on the floors above it. At least 50 people are still being held hostage, although it is unclear if they are being held at one location or multiple locations.
Many people in the United States went to bed on November 26 without any idea that half the planet away a terrorist attack was being carried out with calculated deadly effectiveness. Americans woke Thanksgiving Day to find conflicting reports pouring out of the various news services and government sources in Mumbai, India about what had happened, what was happening, and what might be happening. Still, all reports agreed that Mumbai had suffered a coordinated terrorist attack on at least ten separate targets within the city of Mumbai, India’s commercial and entertainment capital. Many of the targets were places frequented by tourists, government officials, and the wealthy.
The reports also agree that the terrorist situation is ongoing.
Nations around the world are condemning the terrorist acts. A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen, an unknown Islamic organization, according to Indian media sources, has taken responsibility for the attacks in an e-mail. However, CNN reports that many state department officials and terrorism experts do not believe that a group hitherto unheard of could have organized, coordinated, and executed such a well-prepared and orchestrated series of attacks.
The terrorists chose high-profile targets. It is yet unclear as to the terrorists’ initial access route into Mumbai, but it is possible that they came ashore (Mumbai is on the coast) by boat. But bomb blasts and gunfire erupted at the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Hotel, the Leopold Café, the Cama Women and Children’s Hospital, a gas station, a railway station, and other locations – at the same time. But the terrorists’ operated with what experts are calling a low tech approach, using only AK-47’s and grenades for their attacks. Reports of hostage situations and hijacked automobiles, including police vehicles, lent even more confusion and mass anxiety to a situation that seemed to erupt out of nowhere.
Indian intelligence officials have admitted that they knew nothing of the coming attacks.
Some are claiming that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai are indicative of the scope and planning of al Qaeda, although that remains unconfirmed. Another group, the India Mujahideen, seems to be more likely, experts feel, and the Deccan Mujahideen could be a splinter group of that much larger domestic terrorist group. Many are looking at a Pakistan-based organization known as the LET (Lashkar-e-Taiba).
India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh was quick to blame militants based in Pakistan. India and Pakistan have been adversaries for decades and Singh’s words raise the fear of increased tension between the two nuclear powers.
It should be pointed out that simply because no one seems to have heard of Deccan Mujahideen does not mean that they could not have operated and carried out this series of attacks. Simply because experts believe it unlikely does not mean it could not actually exist. The quickness with which intelligence and terrorism experts point toward something far more extensive and international does not necessarily make it so. It just means that such a well-organized and executed plan, one that involved multiple targets attacked in a synchronous manner, speaks toward sophisticated secrecy measures, organization, and training, which points away from an unknown group.
That it could be a group formed specifically for the purpose of damaging symbols of Indian economic success, modernity, and cultural achievement has not been offered. That the Deccan Mujahideen operated, organized, trained, and implemented such a coordinated and well-executed plan has many intelligence analysts and experts baffled and looking for some far better connected organization (such as al Qaeda) than an independently operating fringe group.
But blaming Pakistan without definitive proof is counterproductive. Deepak Choprah, appearing on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” stated that India should not be so quick to blame Pakistan. He suggested that Pakistan could ameliorate tensions by offering to aid India in any manner possible.
A few hours later, Pakistan reached out to India to aid in the investigation as to the perpetrators of these terrorist acts. TimesOnline also reports that the LET (Lashkar-e-Taiba) have denied involvement in the attacks in Mumbai.
Mumbai has been the target of major terrorist attacks six times since 1993. The last, which occurred in 2006, resulted in the death of 200 people when railway transit system was attacked.