‘These terrorists were prepared to kill and be killed’

November 29th, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 29 (IANS) India’s longest terror trauma, which ended early Saturday after commandos eliminated the last of the three militants who had taken over the Taj hotel, has left the security establishment stunned by the meticulous planning that went into the most daring non-military attack seen on this country so far.“It is clear that this suicide marine squad had planned this attack months in advance and the high-profile targets they selected also showed that the sites were reconnoitered on a regular basis,” said a top intelligence functionary who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The sheer scale and audacity of the assault that brought the megalopolis to its knees after more than a dozen terrorists engaged elite commando forces and soldiers for nearly 60 hours has not only shown up glaring gaps in the country’s coastal security and intelligence machinery but once again eroded the common man’s confidence in the authorities’ ability to protect him.

That a bunch of die-hard terrorists could hijack an Indian trawler, Kuber, without detection by the Indian Navy and coast guard patrols, kill three crewmembers and then use dinghies and fibreglass lifeboats to land up at Mumbai’s shores with arms and ammunition demonstrated how they had worked out their planning to the minutest detail.

“These were militants prepared to kill and be killed but more importantly willing to stand up and fight,” a senior official of the National Security Guard (NSG) involved in the operation told IANS.

These were extraordinary scenes, even for a city like Mumbai that has been witness to a number of horrifying terror attacks including the 1993 serial bombings and the bombings in commuter trains in 2006.

Fanning out to locations within a two-three km radius of south Mumbai, the armed assailants closed in on their locations that they had already earmarked.

“The targets were selected for their visibility, impact and accessibility,” said a home ministry official.

The fact that they had conducted reconnaissance missions earlier was evidenced by the fact they knew the layout of both the luxury hotels and Nariman House which saw the longest standoffs with security forces. The armed gunmen struck in these very places because they also knew that the guard would be lowered here, say intelligence officials now in hindsight.

“These guys knew all the exits and entrances of the hotels and how to move around easily and we were constantly under fire,” said a marine commando involved in the Taj operation.

The interrogation of the lone gunman, Ajmal Amin Kamal, who was nabbed alive has now reportedly revealed that the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the attack.

He has reportedly told interrogators that the group had undergone training in firearms and explosives besides attending a camp that focused on marine drills that helped them land on Mumbai’s shores.

Despite the home ministry’s ambitious plan to secure India’s coastline and guard against infiltration, it remains vulnerable.

Two years back, the home ministry launched the coastal security scheme with an outlay of Rs. 4 billion ($80.6 million) for strengthening coastal security arrangements to check infiltration in nine coastal states.

The scheme envisaged 73 marine costal police stations, 97 check posts that would be equipped 204 boats, 153 jeeps and 312 motorcycles.

But, for some inexplicable reason, progress in realising this scheme has been slow and states have yet to train up the marine police. The blueprint also envisaged a police force to guard the shores and creeks along Maharashtra’s 720-km long waterfront, which has yet to be implemented.

For long, security agencies have despaired at their unpreparedness to foil terror plots or prevent bombings in the country. The complacency has been shaken by this attack that has shown terror groups are ahead in the game and constantly changing their techniques and methods.

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