Sunday, December 7, 2008

Factual Summary & Perspective for the International Traveler to India

The following info, I received in an email from my employer's travel aid subscription sub-contractor "International SOS" this morning. I found it to be very factual, succinct, and thorough, compared to other bits-and-pieces rushed out for public consumption from traditional media outlets. So I am posting it here, in it's entirety, since I believe the open dissemination of factual information in society is a positive force. "Thinking people", when given the facts, have a better chance of performing "right actions" than uninformed ones, and the international MSM have done a piss poor job, in my opinion, of covering the situation. While this may be anecdotal to many of this blog's readers, it's extremely relevant to me as I was injected with Typhoid & Influenza vaccinations boosters last Friday, making my final plans for January's trip to Bangalore.

Security Situation Updates


Terror attack in Mumbai: assessment, impact, consequences
Updated: December 07, 2008 11:13 GMT

A sea-change?

Attacks that took place on 26-29 November in Mumbai stand apart from recent terror strikes on the sub-continent in their relative sophistication, the tactics employed, the nature of the targets that were the primary objectives of the assault and the actual and psychological impact of the attacks.

There are critical questions for international companies that need to be answered in the wake of the attacks. Can we expect this to be a model for future attacks by Islamist extremists in India? Does this signal a change in the risk to international travellers? Will it drive improvements in the capabilities of the security forces that will have a broader beneficial outcome for security in India? Will it act as a major influence on some of the various extremist groups that operate in India, leading the way for more effective and destabilising attacks?

Impacts and implications

The success of the terrorists’ operation has damaged India’s reputation – leading to high-profile resignations, halting a city of 18m for more than two days and demonstrating that Western interests are vulnerable in this global business hub.

As a result, it is expected that business traveller numbers will be reduced for a period, security costs will rise for companies doing business in India and some companies will think twice before sending their people to the sub-continent. Whether the impact will be temporary or longer-term will depend on the incidence of further targeted attacks against foreigners.

It is the first time that foreign nationals have been systematically targeted in this manner in India, but it is not the first time that a significant assault has been launched on the heart of the country’s financial capital. Nor is it the first time terrorists in India have realised the paralysis that a well co-ordinated small arms attack can inflict on a major centre.

There is little likelihood that the Indian security agencies will quickly close the gaps exposed in the intelligence failures and poor co-ordination of the response to the recent attack. Both the scale of the challenge and the bureaucracy of the Indian system will make this a very long process of improvement. The Indian security services are likely to continue to be challenged in combating the risk of terrorism in the country, despite increased support and co-operation with major Western governments.

The less-sophisticated terrorist bombings that have increased in tempo over the past four months are expected to continue. These attacks continue to pose an incidental risk to business travellers, as they target local markets, entertainment venues, religious and tourist sites and transport hubs.

The success of the Mumbai action is likely to inspire further targeted attacks against foreigners in India. There are many extremist groups: local, regional and international, which have demonstrated the capacity and motivation to carry out such attacks.

As has been the case for Indonesia, Turkey and Egypt, where there has been a strategic shift towards targeting foreign interests, such incidents are likely to be repeated, though on an infrequent basis. Such incidents do have an impact on the willingness of some business travellers to go to these destinations

Sequence of events

The death toll from the Mumbai attacks stands at 195 people, including at least 22 international travellers and expatriates. Another 370 people were injured. The security forces suffered approximately 18 casualties as they killed nine terrorists and captured one.

There are conflicting reports about the number of terrorists involved, but initial investigations indicate that these attacks were executed by a small, mobile team of ten to 14 operatives. The events unfolded in the following sequence:

26 November

Multiple dispersed attacks were intended to inflict mass casualties and distract security force attention from assaults on the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers and Trident-Oberoi hotels and Nariman House.

  • 21.20 (local time): Random firing outside Trident-Oberoi hotel at Nariman Point in south Mumbai.
  • 21.30: Indiscriminate firing in Leopold Café at Colaba Causeway in south Mumbai.
  • 21.40: Terrorists forced entry into Nariman House, housing the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch. Firing also occurred near Bade Miyan café, behind the Taj hotel in Colaba.
  • 21.45: Indiscriminate firing inside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) (formerly Victoria Terminus (VT)) railway station in central Mumbai. Several killed and others injured.
  • 22.30: Firing at municipal corporation headquarters gate two, opposite CST.
  • 22.35: Firing at Gokuldas Tejpal (GT) hospital, near CST.
  • 22.40: Firing at Cama Hospital, near CST.
  • 22.50: Firing at Metro cinema in south Mumbai.
  • 22.55: Terrorists enter Taj Mahal hotel and open indiscriminate fire.
  • 23.00: Bomb blast in a taxi in Vile Parle in north Mumbai.
  • 23.00: Bomb blast in a taxi in the Mazgaon Dockyard in south Mumbai.
  • 23.10: Firing and two explosions at Napean Sea Road in south Mumbai
  • 23.30: Bomb blast at Dhobi Talao in south Mumbai.

26-29 November

  • Taj Mahal hotel: At approximately 22.55 on 26 November, three to four terrorists entered the Taj and commenced indiscriminate firing. The terrorists took hostages during the siege, which lasted for almost 58 hours before the security forces killed the last terrorist on 29 November at 08.46. At least 22 hotel guests, two commandos and four terrorists were killed in the attack. The sixth floor and several other areas in the hotel suffered extensive damage.
  • Trident-Oberoi hotel: Terrorists entered the Trident-Oberoi hotel at approximately 21.30 on 26 November. The hotel was stormed by the elite National Security Guard (NSG) in the early hours of 27 November. The flushing-out operations at the hotel were completed by 15.30 on 28 November. At least 26 people were killed, including two terrorists; 124 hostages were rescued.
  • Nariman House: Two terrorists stormed Nariman House at approximately 21.00 on 26 November. Both the terrorists were killed in an NSG operation that concluded at 08.40 on 28 November. The terrorists killed nine hostages, including a rabbi and his wife.



The success of the attacks in Mumbai was built on extensive planning, detailed reconnaissance, close co-ordination of assault elements and developed military skills and tactics. The accounts of freed hostages (including hotel staff) and eye-witnesses indicate that the terrorists at the Taj and Trident-Oberoi were very familiar with the internal layout of the hotels. Their ability to assemble a substantial cache of small arms and explosives and infiltrate the hotels stands testament to the degree of planning involved and points to a significant local logistical support base that remains intact.

Preliminary investigations indicate that a number of the perpetrators were staying in the Taj and Trident-Oberoi hotels for several days prior to the attack and had set up ‘bases’ or control rooms to store the stockpile of explosives and weapons and to maximise the length and impact of the attack.

The successful execution of a multi-phase amphibious raid involving the hijack of a boat, the neutralisation of security positions, simultaneous diversionary attacks and denying India’s premier counter-terrorism force the realisation of key objectives for nearly 60 hours indicates a capable, well-prepared and professional terrorist force.

Method of attack

The noteworthy features of the tactics, techniques and procedures employed by the terrorist group include:

  • entry by sea, probably from Pakistan.
  • selection of soft, iconic, foreign and business targets.
  • assembly of a substantial cache of weapons including small arms, grenades and RDX (explosives).
  • modified fidayeen-style attack (often employed by Kashmiri militants and involving infiltrating a military or government installation and using small arms fire to inflict maximum casualties).
  • the objective of inflicting the maximum casualties. Initial investigations have revealed that the majority of victims were killed within the first few hours of the assault.
  • holding target locations and seeking Western hostages.


The direct targeting of Westerners and iconic symbols at the heart of India’s financial capital indicates the primary motives of the attackers were:

  • the pursuit of global jihad.
  • to undermine India’s economic progress by disrupting business and tourism.
  • to ignite the cause of radical Islam in India.

The attacks also coincided with the Pakistani foreign minister’s visit to India and the previous day’s home secretary-level talks in Islamabad.

The attack may also represent an attempt to derail the fragile Indo-Pakistani peace process and reignite regional tensions. While such attacks have a long lead time, the terrorist cell may have been operationally ready for some time. Pakistan-based militant groups have in the past timed terror attacks with important diplomatic events. A notable example is a bomb attack on the Samjhauta Express train service between Pakistan and India in February 2007, which occurred a day prior to a visit to India by the Pakistani foreign minister that aimed at reviving stalled peace talks.

There has been no immediate religious violence in the wake of the Mumbai attacks although this cannot be discounted in the near term.

Who was responsible?

There are strong indications that the attack was planned and executed by Pakistan-based militants and specifically the jihadi organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). While attributing responsibility for terrorism in India to Pakistani militants is a reflex action for the Indian security services, there is mounting information indicating the LET’s involvement in the Mumbai attack. This includes:

  • information obtained from captured terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Amir Iman claiming he is a member of the LET and was trained in LET camps in preparation for the attacks;
  • satellite phone records tracing calls from the Mumbai terrorists to known LET militants;
  • the tracing of an email from the Deccan Mujahadeen – which claimed the attacks – to a user in Lahore (Pakistan) via a Russian server. The Deccan Mujahadeen is likely to be a front organisation and the name seems to be an attempt to appeal to Indian Muslims (the Deccan is a plateau in south India); and
  • the evident sophistication of the attack and the capabilities of the individuals involved.

While the LET was established by the Pakistani intelligence service to further its objectives in Kashmir, the group has increasingly gravitated to an expanded agenda of global jihad and is no longer an exclusively state-sponsored or controlled organ. LET indoctrination is not only aimed at India but vehemently anti-Western and anti-Jewish. The LET has previously been implicated in the planning of terrorist attacks within Pakistan and outside the region.

By its nature, the LET is also a broad organisation with strong ideological, personal, financial and operational links to other jihadi groups in Pakistan. Jihadi training camps in Pakistan continue to develop militants feeding in from a range of affiliated organisations.

The senior al-Qaida leadership continues to be based in Pakistan. Its sponsorship of regional militancy and the convergence of its interests with those of jihadi groups including the LET has increased. Recent attacks on the Marriott hotel (September 2008) and Danish embassy (June 2008) in Islamabad (Pakistan) used al-Qaida’s modus operandi, with the group claiming responsibility for the latter attack. It is premature to assess whether al-Qaida provided any planning or operational support to the Mumbai attacks; however, the direct targeting of Westerners and Jews is consistent with its global jihadi agenda.

It remains unclear whether the Mumbai attacks are connected to a terrorism campaign in India that had gathered momentum over the past four months. While previous attacks have been of lower intensity and have not targeted foreigners, this campaign has also pursued an agenda of disrupting the Indian economy and provoking religious tensions. At a minimum, this campaign shares an agenda of advancing the cause of radical Islam on the sub-continent.

There are emerging indications that at least some of the attackers had spent time in Mumbai prior to the attack and much of their operational information could have been gathered with well executed reconnaissance and surveillance. Such tradecraft is common to Pakistani jihadi organisations and international terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and is a fundamental aspect of such successful terrorist attacks.

Several recent terrorist attacks in India have been claimed by the India Mujahadeen (IM), believed to be a front movement for regional jihadi group Harakat-ul-Mujahadeen (HUJI) and the local Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The connection between the IM and Deccan Mujahadeen is unclear, but both appear to represent thinly veiled attempts to present an indigenous face to the terrorist attacks in the country.

Impact and consequences for business travellers and expatriates

National picture

A deterioration in India-Pakistan relations is anticipated in the wake of the Mumbai attack. A 2001 attack on parliament in Delhi led to a major face-off between India and Pakistan and the deployment of Indian troops to the western border. In the face of their own failures, there is great pressure on India’s political leaders to respond strongly to Pakistan. Impassioned language that refers to strikes against terrorist camps on Pakistan soil illustrates that India is at risk of returning to the sabre-rattling that brought the countries to the edge of conflict in 2002.

In the wake of the attack, India has sought the support of the US and the international community to pressure Pakistan. This may result in the temporary closure of transport routes and borders between the two countries in the coming week.

Direct targeting of foreigners

The Mumbai attacks represent a clear escalation in scale and modus operandi from the recent pattern of terrorist attacks in many of India’s major cities. Foreigners were directly targeted at the Café Leopold, popular with Westerners, and at the Taj and Trident-Oberoi hotels. There are corroborated accounts of gunmen targeting British and US passport holders as hostages. The assault on Nariman House was also a clear attack on Israeli nationals based in the building.

The targeting of hotels popular with the business fraternity also increases the incidental risk for the local staff of foreign companies in Mumbai and across India.


Outlook for business travellers and expatriates in India

Ongoing lower intensity acts of terrorism in India’s major metropolitan areas are expected to continue. These attacks represent a primarily incidental risk to business travelers, particularly in markets, entertainment venues and major transport hubs. A potential connection between these blasts and the Mumbai attacks cannot be discounted, particularly at the regional jihadi level.

It is uncertain whether the intensive targeted attack on Mumbai will be replicated or represent the commencement of a targeted campaign against foreigners in India. It is however likely that India will experience similar attacks targeting foreigners due to:

  • The nature of Pakistani jihadi groups. The LET and other Pakistani jihadi elements have a strong anti-Western and anti-Jewish agenda in addition to their focus on India. They retain strong organisational, training and operational structures and have the motives to conduct further attacks on foreigners in India.
  • A convergence of motives. The direct attack on foreigners represents the most effective way to disrupt India’s business and tourism sectors and ultimately its economic course. It is this convergence of motives that may be exploited by local Indian militants.
  • Pakistani politics. The Pakistani government is impotent in the face of the militancy in its country. Power in Pakistan still rests with the military-intelligence apparatus, which has less reason to curb the activities of groups such as the LET since former president Pervez Musharraf’s departure from office in August 2008.

While there are no clear indications of further targeted attacks on foreigners, tourist sites and popular locations remain vulnerable and such attacks can be expected to occur. This includes sites in all of the major metros in addition to Goa, Agra and the tourist towns of Rajasthan (particularly Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur).

For such targeted risks, the profile and nature of venues are as significant as actual locations and the modus operandi of hostage-taking is of increasing concern to the Indian authorities. The aviation industry remains another point of vulnerability and there have been several threats against the sector in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

Annex: Terrorist attacks in 2005-08

  • Firing and three explosions at multiple sites in Mumbai in November killed 195 people and injured 370; the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility, but the involvement of the LET is suspected.
  • Eighteen explosions in markets in Assam killed 77 people and injured 450 in October; the Indian Security Force-IM (ISF-IM) claimed the attack.
  • Four explosions at markets in Tripura in October killed two people and injured 90.
  • Two blasts in Maharashtra and Gujarat in September targeted Eid celebrations, killing seven people and wounding 79.
  • Thirty people were killed and 90 others injured in five blasts in busy markets in Delhi in September for which the IM claimed responsibility; another market explosion in the city later that month killed four and injured 22.
  • Seventeen blasts in Ahmedabad in July that were claimed by the IM killed 57 people and wounded 160 others.
  • Two people were killed and 15 injured in eight explosions in Bangalore in July.
  • The IM claimed responsibility for eight blasts at markets, a temple, a palace and other locations in Jaipur in May in which 80 people were killed and 150 others injured.
  • In November 2007, six bombings at court complexes in Uttar Pradesh killed 15 people and wounded 80 others.
  • The involvement of the Sikh separatist Babbar Khalsa group was suspected in a blast in Ludhiana in October 2007 that killed seven and injured 40.
  • Three people were killed and 17 injured in an explosion at an Islamic shrine in Ajmer, Rajasthan in October 2007.
  • Three blasts in Hyderabad in August 2007 killed 42 people and injured 70.
  • Another explosion in Hyderabad in May 2007 killed 13 people and wounded 50 others; the involvement of HUJI was suspected.
  • Sixty-eight people died and 12 others were injured in two blasts in Haryana in February 2007.
  • Three explosions in Maharashtra in September 2006 killed 40 people and injured 312 others.
  • Seven blasts on local suburban trains in Mumbai in July 2006 killed 210 people and injured 714 others; the authorities suspected the involvement of SIMI and the LET.
  • The Lashkar-e-Kahar claimed responsibility for two explosions that in March 2006 killed 28 people and wounded 101 others in Varanasi.
  • A scientist and five terrorists were killed during a shooting attack on the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in Bangalore in December 2005.
  • Three explosions in Delhi in October 2005 killed 62 people and injured 200 others; the attacks occurred at markets and were claimed by the Inquilab Mahaz, which has links with the LET.
  • Militants in July 2005 stormed a makeshift Hindu temple constructed at the site of the demolished Babri mosque in Ayodhya; the security forces killed six terrorists.

1 comment:

  1. mean to say that we have better intelligence than guv'mint?


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