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- Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-E-Taiba by Stephen Tankel
- Lashkar-e-Taiba, Mumbai, and the ISI
- The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba
- Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba
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Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-E-Taiba by Stephen Tankel
Abu Omar] from Faisalabad and Imran Babar [a. The fidayeen also killed two guests. She was also made to give a status update directly to Sajid who, speaking in fluent English, promised he would release her and the other hostage in exchange for Kasab. The gunmen were ordered to kill the hostages, all of whom were dead by the time Indian forces assaulted the building. In total, civilians and security personnel were killed and were injured. Dividing their forces and moving from target to target had created the impression of a larger strike force, which the fidayeen fed by inflating their numbers in calls to the press.
Erroneous media reporting subsequently overestimated the actual size of the fidayeen squad. The one major cost associated with the use of multiple strike teams was that the small size of each limited their capacity when engaged by well-armed Indian forces. This also helped minimize the body count in the hotels where potential vic- tims were able to disperse and hide.
The number of dead easily could have been much higher at the hotels considering the length of the operation and large number of potential victims present. Because terrorism is a form of expressive violence intended to induce reper- cussions far beyond those immediately victimized by it, the opera- tional success of the Mumbai attacks cannot be measured by body account alone. The fact that they were so successful owed partly to a seriously flawed Indian counter-terrorism response. US officials issued several warnings to their Indian counterparts about various aspects of the attack.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, Mumbai, and the ISI
A second, more specific, warning followed in May and included information that the Taj might be a target. A third alert regarding the Taj was issued in September, at approxi- mately the time when the attacks initially were intended to take place. Finally, on 18 November, days before the fidayeen finally set sail, US officials issued a warning to India about a suspicious vessel believed to pose a potential maritime threat.
However, the MV Kuber blended in with the thou- sands of other Indian-registered fishing vessels. The committee that investigated the attacks found the Maharashtra government took no significant measures to improve coastal security despite repeated alerts. India was hardly the first country to have prior warning of a ter- rorist attack and yet remain powerless to stop it. Connecting the dots is always easier in hindsight. More troubling was the degree to which the various security forces in India were unprepared to respond to the attacks once they began.
After the September warn- ing, hotel security and the police implemented limited security measures at the Taj. However, no significant steps were taken to harden its perimeter or increase police vigilance and the temporary security enhancements were lifted weeks before the attacks. The police admitted they did not have the overall manpower to main- tain a presence, nor were the personnel they could have posted at the hotels trained to deal with a terrorist attack.
As first responders, the Mumbai police were wholly unprepared to deal with the situation. To begin with, there simply were not enough of them. The United Nations recom-mends, on average, police per , citizens for normal, peacetime policing.
India, which is forced to contend with numer- ous active insurgencies, had approximately police per , people as of , or half of the recommended number. Most police officers did not have the proper weaponry or body armor to con- tend with the threat posed by well-trained and well-armed com- mandos.
Many of them were unarmed and some of those who initially responded to the attacks were equipped with 0. Most officers also had only a 5mm plastic protector—useful as riot gear—rather than bullet-resistant vests. Local army units arrived five hours after the attacks began. The Marine Commandos [Marcos], who were the first special response team on site, got there soon afterwards.
However, they pulled out before engaging. Because Lashkar handlers were monitoring the news from Pakistan and communicating with the attackers in Mumbai, this enabled them to provide two key pieces of information to the fiday- een.
Their tardiness exposed inadequate plan- ning and logistical capabilities. First, the NSG were headquartered in Delhi and at the time of the attacks had no bases anywhere else in the country. The only plane avail- able that night was a Russian transport carrier located miles north of Delhi. Additional time was lost because the pilot needed to be woken, the crew assembled and the plane fueled before it could even take off.
Despite the fact that a commercial flight takes 2 hours from Delhi to Mumbai, the NSG transport took 3. Most counter-terrorism experts assert that a rapid-reaction force must be on site within thirty minutes.
The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba
The NSG arrived almost a full twelve hours after the first shots were fired. It was almost another hour before they were able to begin search-and-rescue activities. By the time they engaged, most of the hostages who were killed at the two hotels and the Chabad House had been dead for hours. This owed in part to poor operational planning.
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Despite all of the time it took the NSG commandos to travel to Mumbai, they reportedly were never informed at any point during the trip that two hotels were under attack. The commandos arrived believing it was only one. Nor were they told that the floors at the Oberoi encircled an atrium, enabling the terrorists to assume vantage points on higher floors and fire on those entering the building.
Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba
Yet the Mumbai police, army and Mar- cos were all on the ground and so could have transmitted this infor- mation to the NSG commandos in advance of their arrival. Nor did the NSG set up an operational com- mand center of its own to coordinate the rescue mission, leaving commandos to storm the hotels without adequate real-time intelli- gence. Inadequate equipment also constrained their operational choices, as the lack of night vision goggles and thermal-imaging systems meant they could only operate during daylight hours.
Before they could even begin an assault on the Chabad House surrounding buildings had to be cleared. Local residents opened their homes to those being temporarily displaced, but the process took almost an entire day. This was despite the fact that the NSG, intelligence agencies and Mumbai police all knew that the terrorists were in contact with Lashkar handlers who were watching Indian television and relaying operationally useful information. When an Indian air force heli- copter air-dropped NSG commandos on the roof of the Chabad House, the terrorists inside were ready for it.
They waited patiently on the fourth floor and opened fire as the commandos descended, killing one of them. Yet, as confused as the Indian counter-terrorism response was, the investigative pieces of this savage puzzle fell quickly into place. Despite the communications claiming credit on behalf of the Dec- can Mujahideen, the attacks had all the hallmarks of a Lashkar operation. Even as many Western pundits reflexively pointed the finger at al-Qaeda during the first days of the attacks, Indian inves- tigators were compiling a strong case against Lashkar.