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The Terror Attack that shook the World

Saturday, 25 April 2009 17:39
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by Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra (EPOS)
EPOS Insights

Perhaps after the 9/11 incident in 2001, the 26/11 (the Mumbai terror attack on 26 November 2008) is the terror attack to which the world turned its attention with serious concern. It was the first attack on India which assumed multinational character as the terrorists held hostage British, US, Israeli and some other nationals. It was the first attack targeting India’s commercial centre, Mumbai and its high luxury hotels and restaurants usually visited by businesspersons, affluent and foreign tourists. The mastermind behind the inhuman act is traced to Pakistan based terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), as the one terrorist captured alive confessed there was a premeditated and well drawn out strategy to carry out the attack with long term objectives. The world leaders while pronouncing their support for India have displayed unity in criticising the act in most unequivocal terms.

A group of ten terrorists (the number is still debated) in a well orchestrated manner duped the Indian marine police, coast guard and Mumbai police and reached Mumbai through a hijacked trawler named IVM Kuber and divided into groups after reaching Mumbai. One group attacked the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal railway station and killed the passengers, then turned to Cama hospital and fired indiscriminately. Other groups targeted the posh hotels Taj Palace (a hundred year old heritage hotel, with about 800 rooms with its new wing combined) and Oberoi-Trident, and the Nariman House (housed by Jews). As per reports about 200 people were killed and hundreds injured. About a dozen foreigners got killed in the incident. The terrorists killed senior police officials and foreign tourists and took the whole city to ransom, bringing the buzzing city of Mumbai to a standstill. The public life came to a halt.

While the Mumbai police confronted the first group of two terrorists and killed one and captured the other alive, the other three groups created havoc by taking hostages in Taj and Oberoi-Trident hotels and Nariman house. India’s National Security Guard, Army and Mumbai Police continued the operations at three different places till the morning of 29 November 2008 to eliminate the terrorists. The old and regal structure of the old wing of the Taj Palace hotel provided the terrorists enough space for manipulation to avoid the gaze of the Indian forces. The terrorists were well acquainted with the Taj. The magnitude of this terror act indicated the long term plan of the terrorists with links with organisations like Al Qaeda. As revealed later the terrorist used gadgets such as GPS system and mobile phone to contact their mentors in Karachi in Pakistan. The strategy to target India’s commercial hub can be seen as intended to break India’s economic backbone and discourage foreign investors.

The role of Pakistan based LeT has been confirmed in perpetrating the terrorist act. Islamabad has admitted the lone captured terrorist Azmal Amir Qasab is a Pakistani national from its Punjab province. After India’s diplomatic manoeuvres and international pressure it put one of the LeT leaders Maulana Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi behind bars and initiated enquiry. In its meeting in Pakistan town Muridke on 23 November 2008, the LeT Chief Hafiz-al-Sayeed had criticised India for its role in Afghanistan and its involvement in reconstruction works. He exhorted the members of the Lashkar to punish India. Al Qaeda and organisations like LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad and a host others look at India as inimical to their interests and designs. They see India as a collaborator with the West which they highly despise. They see Kashmir as a part of their agenda. But, the terror attack need to be seen in a wider framework of global terrorism, epicentre of which can be traced to Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border areas infested by Al Qaeda and Taliban elements.

The targeting of Jews in Nariman House appeared to have an explicit objective to highlight the issue of Palestine. Similarly, the holding of hostage of other foreign nationals in hotels was not only aimed at magnifying the issue at a global scale, but also to show the world their might, technology and strategy in perpetrating such barbarous acts.

The investigations received a twist after the Russian news agency Rossiskaya Gazeta of 10 December 2008 traced the financer of the Mumbai terror attack to the international drug mafia don, Dawood Ibrahim. The news agency quoting Victor Ivanov, director of Russia’s anti-narcotics service, made it clear that the super profits generated from drug trafficking in Afghanistan run by the Dawood gang, were utilised to fund the terrorist attack on the Indian commercial hub. Reportedly, Dawood was at Murree, 35 km from Islamabad when the terror attack in Mumbai took place. There are reports that Dawood has shifted his base to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a Taliban stronghold in Pakistan. The terrorists sailed from Karachi to Sasool dock in India from where they were set off in boats arranged by a frontman of Dawood, who runs several custom clearing houses in Mumbai to their inhuman mission of killing the innocents.

The traditional rivalry between India and Pakistan has obstructed the enquiry process to bring justice to the culprits. India in its evidence to Pakistan provided materials such as CDs with terrorists’ voice recordings, DNA of killed terrorists, GPS plots and maps, CCTV footage of attacks, MV Kuber diary, Qasab’s fingerprints, photos of killed terrorists, SIM card details, pictures of weapons and a Yamaha engine, which the FBI report said was purchased from Pakistan. India made demands: First, Pakistan should hand over the culprits engaged in the attack to face trial in India. Second, Pakistan should dismantle the terror networks based in Pakistan to prevent attacks on India. Third, it must abide by bilateral, multilateral and international agreements against terrorism.

Though Pakistan has initiated the process of inquiry ostensibly under the US pressure, the results on the ground testify to the nonchalant attitude of Islamabad in dismantling terrorist organisations based on its soil. The banned Jamaat-ul-Dawa (it was banned by the UN Security Council aftermath of the Mumbai attack), the frontal organisation of the LeT, and its leaders openly participated in a rally in Lahore on 12 January 2009. Reportedly the banned Jamaat has donned a new grab named, Tehrik-e-Tehfuz. Pakistan initially attempted to dismantle the proofs of Kasab’s Pak citizenship by saying that his name is not found in the national citizenship register. The contrast between the civilian government in Pakistan and the army is another factor that needs to be kept in mind. The civilian government’s intention however feeble in cooperating with India has been thwarted by the army. When the civilian government purportedly wants to look at the incident from a broader viewpoint of terrorism, the army wants to confine the incident into India-Pakistan orbit as a scoreboard, and detach the event from global war against terrorism.

What is further perplexing is the nature of collusion between Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in Pakistan. Afghanistan and its border areas with Pakistan particularly federally administered tribal areas and north west frontier province (NWFP) are infested by fundamentalist and terrorist elements. The terrorists with their stronghold in these areas are emboldened, especially after the November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, to intensify out their deadly activities. It is no surprise that the whole of South Asia and the world is concerned about the fast deteriorating scenario in the region.

India with a multicultural and pluralistic society may be resilient enough to absorb shocks of violence as in the past, but the costs of incoherence in tackling terrorism may be too heavy if not appropriate actions are not taken in time. The international community need to adopt a broader perspective in fighting the menace in an international framework.

Last modified on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 14:21
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