Monday, December 01, 2008

An update and some informed background on the Mumbai terror attack

ABC News provides an update on the investigation into the Mumbai terror attack, and Juan Cole gives some good background on the region and the reasons for the conflicts. First, apparently the Indian Intelligence was warned of an impending terror attack by sea into downtown Mumbai. Second, NSA trackbacks from the sim cards out of cell phones carried by the terrorists apparently lead to Lashkar-e Tayiba in Pakistan. This appears to have many of the earmarks of a rogue terrorist operation, however. It may be more a demonstration of the weaknesses of both the Pakistani government and the Indian government than anything else.
U.S. intelligence agencies warned their Indian counterparts in mid-October of a potential attack "from the sea against hotels and business centers in Mumbai," a U.S. intelligence official tells

Intelligence agencies warned Indian counterparts of potential attacks in Mumbai.

A second government source says specific locations, including the Taj hotel, were listed in the U.S. warning.

One month later, Nov. 18, Indian intelligence also intercepted a satellite phone call to a number in Pakistan known to be used by a leader of the terror group, Lashkar e Taiba, believed responsible for the weekend attack, Indian intelligence officials say.

The Indian intercept also revealed a possible sea-borne attack, the officials say.

The chairman of the company that owns the hotel, Ratan Tata, told CNN that security was temporarily increased following a warning.

Tata told CNN Sunday that the enhanced measurers were later eased and, in any case, "could not have stopped what took place."

Since Friday, U.S. intelligence agencies have been tracking the phones and SIM cards recovered by Indian authorities from the Mumbai terrorists leading to a "treasure trove" of leads in Pakistan and several possible connections to the United States, officials say.

Officials say one of the cell phone SIM cards may have been purchased in the United States but would not provide any more details because of the ongoing nature of the investigation.

The phones also include the same Thuraya satellite phone intercepted in November by the Indian spy agency RAW, the Research and Analysis Wing, which runs an extensive electronic intercept operation.

NSA, the National Security Agency, has the technical means to retrieve all calls made from satellite and cell phones in the south Asia region.

Officials say one of the phones recovered was a Thuraya satellite phone.

"Once we have the number we will be able to know everyone who was called and where the calls were made from," one former intelligence office says.

A US counter-terrorism official says all leads continue to point Lashkar e Taiba, a Kashmir separatist group with strong ties to al Qaeda.
From Juan cole's Informed Comment:
The Indian counterpart of the CIA, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), intercepted a cell phone call on November 18 to a number in Lahore, Pakistan, known to be that of a Lashkar-i Tayiba handler, saying that the caller was heading to Mumbai. They later found the phone itself on a hijacked Indian fishing boat, which the attackers had taken over to camouflage their approach to the port.

The sole captured LeT operative, Kamal, is said by the Indian press to be from Faridkot village near Dipalpur Tahsil in Okara District of Pakistani Punjab, southwest of Lahore [I saw one article, which I can no longer retrieve, in which the Indian press mispelled the tahsil or county as Gipalpur]). This is such a remote and little-known place that even Pakistani newspapers were having difficulty tracking it down).

Kamal is said to be telling Indian security that he and the others trained in camps in Pakistani Kashmir. (The original princely state of Kashmir, largely Muslim, is divided, with one third in Pakistani hands and two-thirds in Indian; India joined its portion to largely Hindu Jammu to create the province of Jammu and Kashmir.)
Juan cole continues with a good summary of the history of the Kashmir conflict and the Lashkar-e Tayiba. Then he ends with this statement:
The Mumbai attacks were not the first of this scale on an Indian target by the LeT.

If the Pakistani government does not give up this covert terrorist campaign in Kashmir and does not stop coddling the radical vigilantes who go off to fight there, South Asian terrorism will grow as a problem and very possibly provoke the world's first nuclear war (possible death toll: 20 million).

The civilian government that has recently taken over Pakistan is weak. If it puts too much pressure on the military too quickly, it risks another coup and destabilization. But the training camps in Azad Kashmir must be closed.

India, Pakistan, and the Obama administration need to do some serious diplomacy on Kashmir, and try to settle this major global fault line before the 10.0 earthquake finally hits.
This description demonstrates some of the complexities involved in the India/Pakistan relationship. They will need U.S. and British help, but both nations will have to tread very carefully.Both the initial terror attack and the resulting government reactions are parts of the battle for control of public opinion. Improperly handled the government reactions can end up causing the terrorists to win and the governments of both Pakistan and India to come out in the end much weaker. But handled properly the governments can end stronger and the the terrorist groups can find themselves losing the public support that allows then to exist and operate.

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