One thing that is very clear, though, is that regardless of the purpose of the attack or whether it is an attack by an Indian homegrown group or by organizations external to India, the attack is a major escalation in terror attacks in India. India has had more terrorist attacks than any other nation.
Investigations are on-going, and it appears that some of the terrorists were captured by the Indian police and Commandos, so many of the questions that exist today are likely to be answered soon.
News about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai:
- From CNN 11/28/2008 [No time given] - [Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan] Gafoor said most of the attackers had been heavily armed. "They were carrying an AK-assault rifle, one or two hand guns, and grenades." [Snip}
Pranab Mukherjee, the external affairs minister for Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located, said the preliminary investigation "indicates that some elements in Pakistan are involved."
"I can't tell you the details since the investigation is going on," he said. "Until the investigation is complete, it will be difficult to say where they came from and how they came."[Snip]
The gunmen were young men in their 20s who "obviously had to be trained somewhere," a member of the Indian navy's commando unit said Friday.
They fired at guests "with no remorse" and knew the layout of the hotels well enough to "vanish" after confronting security forces, the commando said.
"Not everybody can fire the AK series of weapons, not everybody can throw a grenade like that," the commando said outside the Taj hotel. "It is obvious that they were trained somewhere." [Snip]
The identity of the attackers remained a mystery. Police said they came by boats to the waterfront near the Gateway of India monument and the two hotels.
Indian naval and coast guard investigators have determined that two vessels recently seized in the Arabian Sea have no links to the Mumbai attacks. A fishing trawler, however, remains in custody.
The Press Trust of India, citing Union Cabinet Minister Kapil Sibal, reported the gunmen had worked for months to prepare, even setting up "control rooms" in the two luxury hotels ...
- From Washington Post 11/28/2008 1:06 pm EST - BERLIN, Nov. 28 -- Counterterrorism officials and experts said the scale, sophistication and targets involved in the Mumbai attacks were markedly different from previous terrorist plots in India and suggested the gunmen had received training from outside the country. But they cautioned it was too soon to tell who may have masterminded the operation, despite an assertion from a previously unknown Islamist radical group.
Officials in India, Europe and the United States said likely culprits included Islamist networks based in Pakistan that have received support in the past from Pakistan's intelligence agencies. [Snip]
British security officials said they were studying photographs of some attackers but were still trying to establish their nationalities. [Snip]
Analysts said this week's attacks surpassed previous plots carried out by domestic groups in terms of complexity, the number of people involved and their success in achieving their primary goal: namely, to spread fear.
"This is a new, horrific milestone in the global jihad," said Bruce Riedel, a former South Asia analyst for the CIA and National Security Council and author of the book "The Search for Al Qaeda." "No indigenous Indian group has this level of capability. The goal is to damage the symbol of India's economic renaissance, undermine investor confidence and provoke an India-Pakistani crisis."
Several analysts and officials said the attacks bore the hallmarks of Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Muhammad, two networks of Muslim extremists from Pakistan that have targeted India before. Jaish-i-Muhammad was blamed for an attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001.
Both groups have carried out a long campaign of violence in the disputed territory of Kashmir, which India and Pakistan have fought over for six decades.[Snip}
In its Friday editions, the newspaper the Hindu reported that at least three of the suspects held by police were members of Lashkar-i-Taiba and that the assailants had arrived in Mumbai on a ship from Karachi, Pakistan.
Earlier, Pakistan's government condemned the attacks and warned India against jumping to conclusions about who was responsible. Lashkar-i-Taiba issued a statement denying involvement.
India has been plagued by a wave of terrorist attacks in recent years, many sparked by friction between Hindu nationalists and minority Muslim groups. The shootings in Mumbai were far from the worst to strike India's financial capital; bombings in 1993 and 2006 each killed more than 180 people.
A group calling itself the Deccan Mujaheddin asserted responsibility for the attacks in e-mails sent to Indian media organizations Wednesday. Officials said they had never heard of the group. [Snip]
Television footage showed the assailants carrying automatic rifles and backpacks filled with ammunition and grenades. Analysts said the fact that the gunmen quickly fanned across the city and were able to hold off Indian security forces over three days suggested that they had received training at organized camps.
"What is striking about this is a fair amount of planning had to go into this type of attack," said Roger W. Cressey, a former White House counterterrorism official in the Clinton and Bush administrations. "This is not a seat-of-the-pants operation. This group had to receive some training or support from professionals in the terrorism business."
Some experts said the operation bore resemblances to plots orchestrated by al-Qaeda, in that it involved multiple, simultaneous attacks targeting foreigners. In this case, according to witnesses, the gunmen sought out Americans and Britons, and also took hostages at the local headquarters of an Orthodox Jewish group.
Others said they were dubious of a connection to Osama bin Laden's organization. They said al-Qaeda has relied on suicide bombers, not gunmen, and is not known to have cells in India.
David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, told reporters that it was "premature to talk about links to al-Qaeda" and that it was still unclear who the intended targets were. "This is only the latest in a series of attacks in India over the last year or two," he said, adding, "Terrorism is not just a war against the West." [Snip]
Other experts warned that there is a long list of suspects who could have played a role. For instance, Indian officials have blamed the 1993 bombings in Mumbai, which killed 257 people, on Dawood Ibrahim, an organized crime figure who remains on the run.
"Anything could be in the cards," said Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism analyst at the Swedish National Defense College. "With most terrorist attacks, it's relatively clear-cut who is involved. In this case, it could be all sorts of constellations that are at work."
- From LA Times 11/28/2008 7:07 am PST - Even as troops moved floor to floor through the besieged hotels liberating trapped guests, the Indian government was blaming foreign elements for the mayhem. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on national television Thursday, asserting that the organizers of the attacks were "based outside the country."
In what was seen as a thinly veiled indictment of Pakistan, he warned India's neighbors that "the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated." Other government officials were quoted in Indian media alleging that the squads of gunmen had charged ashore from rubber boats that fanned out from an unidentified mother ship.
In response, Pakistan's defense minister condemned the Mumbai attacks and warned India to refrain from accusing its longtime rival of involvement. And some security experts warned that India has plenty of home-grown extremists who could be behind the violence.
Whatever their origin, it was clear the squads of attackers were well prepared. The militants struck after months of reconnaissance during which they set up "control rooms" in the targeted hotels, according to Indian officials and an owner of one of the hotels.
"It's the opening of a new front, a strike in a place that causes surprise," said Louis Caprioli, a former French counter-terrorism chief. "And it is unique because it's a military operation that leaves the security forces confused and disorganized.
"For the first time in a long time, you see the use of combatants who take hostages, like the Palestinians in the 1970s," he said. "They were ready to die, but they were not suicide attackers."
Past attacks on Indian targets here and abroad have been the work of an evolving, interconnected array of murky Pakistani extremist groups tied to Al Qaeda and, sometimes, current or former Pakistani security officials. They include Lashkar-e-Taiba, which took part in a bloody siege of the Indian Parliament in 2001 and seems a prime suspect in this case, according to officials and experts.
"This is a group affiliated with Al Qaeda," said Sajjan Gohel of the London-based Asia-Pacific Foundation. "There are eerie similarities to the Parliament attacks."
But Lashkar-e-Taiba has reportedly denied involvement. And anti-terrorism officials warned against speculation because the evidence is limited. India has a history of violence by Hindus and criminal mafias as well as Muslim extremists. [Snip]
Simone Ahuja, an Asia Society associate fellow and founder of a video production house in Mumbai, said the choice of targets favored by foreigners was clearly a blow aimed at dislodging closer U.S.-India ties. And she said the damage done to the Taj Mahal hotel, a waterfront landmark that suffered bomb damage and whose giant towers were licked by flames, may leave emotional scars on the city.
"People are in tears watching their city fall," said Ahuja, who shares her time between Mumbai and Minneapolis. "This is like what happened to the World Trade Center. This will fundamentally change the mental and visual landscape." [Snip]
Meanwhile, the Indian media speculated on how the nation's intelligence network had not been aware of the plot.
Officials said commandos seized a small arsenal of weapons that included hand grenades, tear-gas pistols, knives and more than 80 magazines of ammunition. Also found were four or five credit cards with the names and pictures of suspected militants, officials said.
One report indicated that the militants may have come ashore after dark Wednesday. One fisherman told authorities he saw three boats land on the beach. Numerous men cast off life jackets and hurried off the beach. When a bystander asked one of the men who they were, he reportedly responded, "We're military, just shut up," the witness said.
The tactics resemble what Lebanese American expert Walid Phares calls a "jihadi infantry" model: a well-trained, commando-style contingent using automatic weapons and grenades to take hostages and execute attacks across a city.
"The M.O. is different than previous mass-casualty attacks," a senior European anti-terrorism official said. "It's too early to tell [who's behind this]. We are not drawing any definitive conclusions."
- From NY Times 11/27/2008 [No time given] - ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The terrorist attacks in Mumbai occurred as India and Pakistan, two big, hostile and nuclear-armed nations, were delicately moving toward improved relations with the encouragement of the United States and in particular the incoming Obama administration.
Those steps could quickly be derailed, with deep consequences for the United States, if India finds Pakistani fingerprints on the well-planned operation. India has raised suspicions. Pakistan has vehemently denied them.
But no matter who turns out to be responsible for the Mumbai attacks, their scale and the choice of international targets will make the agenda of the new American administration harder.
Reconciliation between India and Pakistan has emerged as a basic tenet in the approaches to foreign policy of President-elect Barack Obama, and the new leader of Central Command, Gen. David H. Petraeus. The point is to persuade Pakistan to focus less of its military effort on India, and more on the militants in its lawless tribal regions who are ripping at the soul of Pakistan.
A strategic pivot by Pakistan’s military away from a focus on India to an all-out effort against the Taliban and their associates in Al Qaeda, the thinking goes, would serve to weaken the militants who are fiercely battling American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
But attacks as devastating as those that unfolded in Mumbai — whether ultimately traced to homegrown Indian militants or to others from abroad, or a combination — seem likely to sour relations, fuel distrust and hamper, at least for now, America’s ambitions for reconciliation in the region.
The early signs were that India, where state elections are scheduled next week, would take a tough stand and blame its neighbor.[Snip]
“If the Indians believe this was Lashkar-e-Taiba and Al Qaeda, as they are suggesting, we could see a crisis like 2002 with enormous pressure to do something,” an American official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter. “The key will be if the Indians see an ISI hand.” [Snip]
Unless care is exercised, one of the apparent goals of the Mumbai attack will be achieved, said Moonis Ahmar, a lecturer in international relations at Karachi University. And the new American agenda of reconciliation between India and Pakistan will be sacrificed. “It’s a well-thought-out conspiracy to destabilize relations between the two countries,” Mr. Ahmar said.
- From The Guardian 11/2/2008 10:20 GMT - In this case it looks like Islamist extremism, for which Mumbai has been a particular target. More than 250 people were killed there in a series of 13 bomb blasts in 1993 blamed on Muslim militants. Two years ago more than 200 people were killed by bomb attacks on trains and railway stations. The police charged about 30 suspects belonging to a Pakistan-based group called Lashkar-i-Taiba and a northern group called Students Islamic Movement of India.
The violence is fuelled by longstanding ethnic tensions that were inflamed by riots in Gujarat State near Mumbai six years ago. Nearly 2,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims. The most serious attacks followed those riots.
But there is clearly something different about this attack. It has relied not on bombs, but a coordinated assault by men with rifles who seem to have arrived at some of their targets by boat. They appear to be on a suicide mission. In at least one instance they singled out Britons and Americans, and one of their targets was a Orthodox Jewish centre. Clearly there is outside influence on their strategy and ideology.
It is too early to say whether there is an al-Qaida connection, and such links can take many forms, from active training and assistance in planning and logistics to simple inspiration from the internet.
What is likely is that the attacks will get blamed on Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), as have previous Islamist atrocities. US counter-terrorism officials believe some ISI members played a role in an attack this year on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan.
Mumbai may be the latest of many outrages that have their roots in recent Indian history – but the targeting of westerners suggests this is becoming globalised, intertwined with a brand of violent extremism emanating from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- From Africasia.com 11/27/2008 1:19 pm Cairo - Egypt and the Arab League on Thursday denounced the "terrorist" attacks which left at least 100 people dead in India's financial hub Mumbai.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak condemned the attacks and said his country "stands by the side of New Delhi in countering terrorism," state news agency MENA reported.
Amr Mussa, who heads the 22-member Arab League, said such "criminal and terrorist acts aggravate the vicious circle of violence and counter-violence," the agency reported.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's main opposition group, also condemned the "terrorist attacks" and called for the execution of the perpetrators.
"These despicable acts of terror are an attack on humanity in general, not against people from certain nationalities or civilization," said a statement on the Brotherhood's website.
"We hope that perpetrators of these heinous (acts) be brought to justice to receive the ultimate punishment for their crimes," said the Brotherhood, which control about a fifth of seats in parliament.
- From NDTV.com November 27, 2008 10:25 PM (Mumbai) - Terrorists who struck Mumbai had set up advance "Control Rooms" in the luxury Taj and Trident (Oberoi) hotels which was also targeted and did prior reconnaissance executing plans worked "over months", Union Cabinet minister Kapil Sibal said on Thursday night.
Sibal said the unprecedented terror attack in the country's financial capital was planned "over months" and the terrorists were not carrying AK-47 rifles but sophisticated weapons like MP-6.
"The terrorists have identified the targets earlier. Somebody had told them earlier. Enormous planning went into the incident. The terrorists were dropped by a mother ship and travelled in rubber boats which they docked (at Mumbai)," Sibal told a private news channel.
Terrorists were not attacking people at random. It was a well though out plan, Sibal said.
They had targeted certain key police officers even when they were wearing vests and protective head gears, he said, adding the terrorists shot them dead within minutes of their arrival.
As security agencies pieced together various leads in the probe on India's worst ever terror strike, there were reports that a likely marine arm of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba may have been involved in the well-planned attacks that left 125 persons dead.
The assessment by the Centre as Mumbai continued to be under siege for the second day came amid reports that the leader of the armed terrorists involved in the attack was killed by his own men.
- From The Daily Mail Last updated at 10:33 PM on 27th November 2008 [Presumend GMT] -- Police have captured one of the terrorists behind the Mumbai attack during the operation at the Taj Mahal hotel.
He was named locally as Zakiruallah, a Punjabi from the Pakistan town of Faridkot.
The 12 gunmen involved may have been trained in Pakistan by militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Indian officials have claimed.
Sources close to the operation said Zakiruallah told investigators that the group had been trained by Lashkar.
But a spokesman for Lashkar denied involvement. The Pakistani government also condemned the attacks.
It is believed the terrorists hijacked an Indian trawler, M V Alpha, which was used as a mothership from which to launch a maritime terror attack on the coastal city.
Indian coastguards recovered the vessel off the Mumbai coast. The decapitated body of its captain was found on board.
Two inflatable rafts were used to transport the men together with massive quantities of RDX explosive, hand grenades and AK-47 assault rifles, to Mumbai. [Snip]
Ratan Tata, who runs the company that owns the Taj Mahal hotel, said they appeared to have scouted their targets in advance.
'They seem to know their way around the back office, the kitchen. There has been a considerable amount of detailed planning,' he said at a press conference.
The attack comes after it was revealed a domestic Islamic terror group warned it was planning a massacre in Mumbai two months ago.
The Indian Mujahideen denounced the city's police anti-terrorist squad - known as the ATS - in September, accusing them of harassing Muslims.
It said in an e-mail: 'You [the ATS] should know that your acts are not at all unnoticed. We are keeping an eye on you and just waiting for the right time to execute bloodshed. [Snip]
Analysts believe the group which claimed direct responsibility for last night's terror attack, the Deccan Mujahideen, is a front for the Indian Mujahideen.
Witnesses say the attackers were young South Asian men speaking Hindi or Urdu, suggesting they are probably members of an Indian militant group rather than foreigners.
Deccan is an area of southern India, indicating the terrorists may be members of a south India offshoot or cell of the main group.
Indian police say the Indian Mujahideen is an offshoot of the banned Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), but that local Muslims appear to have been given training and backing from militant groups in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh.
SIMI has been blamed by police for almost every major bomb attack in India, including explosions on commuter trains in Mumbai two years ago that killed 187 people. [Snip]
The Mumbai attacks also focused clearly on tourist targets, including two luxury hotels and a famous cafe.
However, experts consider any links to al-Qaeda or that the attacks were inspired by Osama bin Laden's movement unlikely.
Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside Al-Qaeda and a terrorism expert at the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, said he believed the group that carried out Wednesday's attack was Indian Mujahideen.
Mr Gunaratna added: 'The earlier generation of terrorist groups in India were mostly linked to Pakistan. But today we are seeing a dramatic change. They are almost all homegrown groups. ... They are very angry and firmly believe that India is killing Muslims and attacking Islam.'
British-based Jane's Information Group said it thought the attackers could be Indian but that taking hostages suggested a wider anti-Western agenda.
'Until now, terrorist attacks in India have targeted civilians, often in busy market or commercial areas, and in communally sensitive areas with the intention to foment unrest between Hindu and Muslim communities,' said Urmila Venugopalan, Jane's South Asia analyst.
'This stands in contrast to the national issues that appeared to motivate Indian Mujahideen,' Venugopalan said. [SNIP]
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed 'external forces' but stopped short of blaming Pakistan. Both are nuclear-armed countries.
Risk forecasters Exclusive Analysis added that it was 'highly unlikely' that they were authorized or even known about at the top level in Pakistan.
Simone Ahuja (above) stated “This is like what happened to the World Trade Center. This will fundamentally change the mental and visual landscape.” She is probably correct. But what happens next is going to determine whether the changed mental and visual landscape favors the terrorists or the Indian people. That, too, is an issue that remains up in the air.