Mumbai attackers used every trick in the book, say experts


MUMBAI: Piracy, infiltration, firing at crowds, using explosives, hostage taking, suicide missions: the terrorists who attacked Mumbai had learnt every trick in the extremist’s handbook, experts say.

“It is like during guerrilla warfare,” Gerard Chaliand, an independent specialist on asymmetric conflict, told AFP. “Groups learnt from experience and the mistakes of those who had gone before them. “There is a sort of accumulation of knowledge every time,” he added, declaring he was ‘unsurprised’ by the methods employed during the 60-hour attack on India’s financial capital between November 26 and 29. “They used every available bit of information and applied it in a rapid manner,” he said.

“Piracy is not a classic tactic but it has already been used in the southern Philippines” by insurgents, he noted. Two men, who opened fire at the city’s main railway station, set off a timer to blow up the taxi which took them there in order to create confusion and cover their tracks. The others took over two luxury hotels and a Jewish cultural centre, taking a number of hostages.

Mumbai police chief Hassan Ghafoor has described the terrorists as being on a ‘suicide mission’. Nine were killed in battles with Indian commandoes. A total of 163 civilians and security personnel also lost their lives. “Mumbai was a commando operation bent on mass killing with automatic weapons and explosives,” an official at a European anti-terrorism organisation told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“This operation marks a hardening and militarisation of the actions used: reconnoitring before attacking, deployment by sea, devastating firepower by several commandoes but no negotiations with the state or any demands.” According to Indian intelligence sources quoted in media reports last week, accomplices of the terrorists had been on a ‘reconnaissance mission’ a month before the attacks. They are alleged to have pretended to be students and said to have even taken rooms in the hotels targeted, leaving behind weapons.

But Mumbai police deny any local link or that the attackers had inside help. Chaliand said: “What is particularly remarkable is the scale of the operation, with so many targets attacked in such a short space of time. “It was also a technically successful operation, if one accepts the theory that there were only 10 of them,” he added, doubting the police insistence that the attacks were mounted entirely from abroad. afp

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