Prison Planet : Media Forced To Backtrack On Al-Qaeda Link To Mumbai Attacks

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Media Forced To Backtrack On Al-Qaeda Link To Mumbai Attacks

Paul Joseph Watson | November 28, 2008

After brazenly declaring that the Mumbai attacks were the work of Al-Qaeda, the corporate media has been forced to backtrack, while India continues to blame Pakistan in a dangerous escalation of rhetoric between the two nuclear-armed powers.

Bellicose propaganda about Bin Laden being behind the massacre, which was initially propagated by the BBC, London Times and Fox News amongst others, has largely evaporated, with the majority of the establishment press being forced to admit they have no idea who was behind the siege on India’s financial capital.

However, India’s claim that Pakistan had a hand in the attacks is beginning to find favor in the U.S., where one counterterrorism official told CNN, “the level of sophistication in the attack leads officials to believe that it might be tied to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (Army of the Pure), an Islamic extremist group that has carried out previous attacks in India.”

Lashkar-e-Tayyiba would be a useful scapegoat because it has alleged links both to Al-Qaeda and Pakistani’s ISI secret service, but since the group has vehemently denied responsibility and terrorists normally like to claim responsibility for their handiwork, any attempt to pin the blame is likely to run out of steam. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba always claim responsibility for their attacks, so their outright denial is the death knell for this explanation.

That India would immediately exploit the tragedy to demonize their arch-enemy Pakistan was fully expected, but how Pakistan, which has recently made numerous peaceful overtures towards India, could possibly benefit from crazed terrorists indiscriminately gunning down innocent people in shocking scenes played out on international television defies belief.

But that reasoning did not prevent India’s Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee from telling a press conference today that, “Preliminary evidence, prima facie evidence, indicates elements with links to Pakistan are involved.”

In reality, as we have repeatedly emphasized, the attacks were likely not the work of Al-Qaeda, Pakistan, the Mossad or the CIA, but Indian Muslims.

As author Tariq Ali points out today, “The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has insisted that the terrorists were based outside the country. The Indian media has echoed this line of argument with Pakistan (via the Lashkar-e-Taiba) and al-Qaeda listed as the usual suspects.”

“But this is a meditated edifice of official India’s political imagination. Its function is to deny that the terrorists could be a homegrown variety, a product of the radicalization of young Indian Muslims who have finally given up on the indigenous political system. To accept this view would imply that the country’s political physicians need to heal themselves.”

“Why should it be such a surprise if the perpetrators are themselves Indian Muslims? Its hardly a secret that there has been much anger within the poorest sections of the Muslim community against the systematic discrimination and acts of violence carried out against them of which the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in shining Gujarat was only the most blatant and the most investigated episode, supported by the Chief Minister of the State and the local state apparatuses.”

“Add to this the continuing sore of Kashmir which has for decades been treated as a colony by Indian troops with random arrests, torture and rape of Kashmiris an everyday occurrence. Conditions have been much worse than in Tibet, but have aroused little sympathy in the West where the defense of human rights is heavily instrumentalised.”

The identity and motive behind the terrorists is reasonably clear, these young men are disenfranchised, revenge-driven Indian Muslims, along with a smattering of Pakistanis, Kashmiris and Bangladeshis, based in India not Pakistan, who hate Hindus and believe it is their duty to kick-start a wider tribal war, which is why the vast majority of those killed were Indians, not foreigners, Brits or Americans.

The terrorists were not dispatched on their mission by the Pakistan government or Osama bin Laden, they are mostly Indians who represent a domestic problem for the Indian government, which is why the authorities are seeking to deflect blame and exploit the tragedy to demonize Pakistan in the eyes of the international community.

The spin that the terrorists deliberately targeted American and British citizens is still being pumped out by the western corporate media, despite the fact that only one Briton died, himself being originally from Cyprus, in comparison to well over a hundred Indians, and despite the fact that the rampage was a completely indiscriminate massacre.

The western propaganda machine has taken a domestic problem, which expresses itself almost on a monthly basis in India with routine bombings and attacks, and amplified it beyond all proportion to claim that the attacks were an assault on western democracy, capitalism, and ultimately the Anglo-American power alliance.

The horrible slaughter of hundreds of mostly Indian civilians in Mumbai will now be used as a poster child for continued bombing campaigns inside Pakistani territory and an expansion of the ailing war on terror under President elect Barack Obama, which in the long term only means that more innocent lives will be lost.

CNN : Who is to blame for Mumbai attacks?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Who is to blame for Mumbai attacks?

November 27, 2008

A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's coordinated and deadly attacks in southern Mumbai, India, but security analysts know next to nothing about the group, and some discount its claim.

Intelligence officials from India and beyond are trying to determine who the attackers were and what their motivation was. The attacks left at least 125 people dead and more than 300 injured at a handful of sites across Mumbai.

"Deccan Mujahideen seem to be this amazing group that has come out of nowhere, that has been operating under the radar for all this time, yet able to mount such a sophisticated and well-coordinated attack," security analyst Will Geddes told CNN. And that, he suggested, is unlikely.

One highly placed intelligence official who has been briefed on the attacks said that the head of the operation is a Bangladeshi and that the militants are Indians, Kashmiris and Bangladeshis. The Indian military has sustained a large number of casualties, the source said.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said the level of sophistication in the attack leads officials to believe that it might be tied to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (Army of the Pure), an Islamic extremist group that has carried out previous attacks in India. Video Watch CNN's Phil Black look at who may be behind the attacks »

LeT, as the group is known, is thought to have been responsible for a string of bombs that ripped through packed Mumbai commuter trains and platforms in July 2006, killing more than 200 people.

The group denied involvement in the attacks Thursday.

"The LeT has no links with Deccan Mujahideen," a caller identifying himself as Abdulla Ghaznavi, an LeT spokesman, told CNN. He said the group condemns the Mumbai attacks and demands an international inquiry into them. Are you there? Send photos and video and share your story

The U.S. State Department says Lashkar-e-Tayyiba has several thousand members in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir and calls it one of the three largest and best-trained groups fighting against India.

Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both, has been wracked by an 18-year separatist campaign that authorities say has left at least 43,000 dead. Video Watch: Analyst says 'don't jump to conclusions' »

The counterterrorism official mentioned another group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is based in Pakistan and, like LeT, fights for the end of Indian rule in Kashmir. The use of fighters with handheld weapons and grenades against fixed targets would be the type of attack either group would be capable of conducting, the official said.
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What is different is the deliberate targeting of Westerners, the official said.

A senior U.S. official said, "our attention is focused on the sophistication of the execution of the attacks." Video Watch a witness describe the scene »

The sophistication was "to the extent it does not seem like Deccan Mujahideen could carry it off, so the question is, did they have outside help?" the source asked.

Both U.S. sources, meanwhile, said the attacks do not seem to point to al Qaeda, which usually launches mass-casualty attacks using vehicles or suicide vests and does not usually take hostages.

Another group being mentioned as a possible culprit is the Indian Mujahideen, a Muslim militant group that emerged about a year ago. Despite its relatively new status, the organization is thought to have the organizational capability to carry out such attacks, said Paul Cruickshank, a fellow at the Center on Law and Security at New York University's School of Law.

The group has declared "open war" against India in retaliation for what it said were 60 years of Muslim persecution and the country's support of U.S. policies.

In September, the group said it was behind a series of explosions that ripped through busy marketplaces in New Delhi, killing 24 people and wounding about 100. The group also claimed responsibility in May for near-simultaneous bomb attacks that killed 63 people in the northwest city of Jaipur.

Officially, the Indian government has said no one has claimed responsibility for this week's Mumbai attacks. The Deccan Mujahideen claims came in e-mails to several Indian media outlets.

Deccan refers to the Deccan Plateau, which makes up the majority of the southern part of the country. "Deccan" is an Anglicized form of "dakkhin," which means south. Read more on the international reaction

Mujahideen translates into "those engaged in the struggle for jihad." Although "jihad" in Islam can mean any endeavor that requires dedication, the term has taken on a militant tone in recent years.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggested in a television address that the attacks were launched by people from outside the country.

"It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the financial capital of the country," Singh said.

Indian security experts agree that the attackers came from outside the country.

"What you're seeing is that these types of attacks are established. There's a network. There's well-planned reconnaissance and logistics and financial support. It could only be from a group that's receiving international support, obviously with a domestic dimension," terrorism expert Sajjan Gohel said.

"This time, there was a multipronged approach. It wasn't just about targeting Indians. It was an aim, but it wasn't the only one," Gohel said. "They also wanted to go after Westerners, as well. They wanted to create a lack of confidence in people traveling to India, hit at the economy, hit at the tourism industry."

Fingers have also been pointed toward Pakistan, India's neighbor. The two nations, both nuclear powers, have a tense relationship.

"It's everybody's right to say what they want to say, but as far as my country is concerned, we are already hit by this terrorism," Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told CNN's Reza Sayah. Video Watch the Pakistani PM condemn the attacks »

"I think this is a heinous crime, and we condemn it," Gilani said. "And I think this terrorism is a menace for the whole world, and therefore we have to work jointly to combat terrorism and extremism."

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, released a statement saying that terrorism "is a threat to both India and Pakistan."

"Pakistan has vehemently condemned the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. It is unfair to blame Pakistan or Pakistanis for these acts of terrorism even before an investigation is undertaken," Haqqani's statement reads. "Instead of scoring political points at the expense of a neighboring country that is itself a victim of terrorism, it is time for India's leaders to work together with Pakistan's elected leaders in putting up a joint front against terrorism."

Guardian : Mumbai: Behind the attacks lies a story of youth twisted by hate

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai: Behind the attacks lies a story of youth twisted by hate

The intense poverty and extreme religious culture of the southern Punjab have made the region a hotbed for Islamist terror groups. It is, claim the Indian media, the seedbed of last week's slaughter in Mumbai. Jason Burke travelled to the twin towns of Bahawalpur and Multan, home of alleged killer Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Amin Kasab, to discover what impels young men to unleash carnage

Jason Burke | November 30, 2008

The pitted roads around Multan, the city of saints, stretch flat across the fields. They lead past rundown factories, workshops, shabby roadside teashops and mile after mile of flat fields broken only by the mud and brick houses of the villages of Pakistan's rural poor. One road leads south-east to the nearby city of Bahawalpur, the biggest recruiting base of the militant groups currently being blamed by India for the Mumbai attack; another leads north-west to Faridkot, the home village of Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Amin Kasab, a 21-year-old Pakistan national named yesterday in the Indian media as the only gunman involved in last week's atrocity now alive and in custody.

Already a picture claimed by the Indian media to be Kasab, showing a young man dressed in combat trousers, carrying a backpack and an AK47, on his way to to Mumbai's main station to carry out his deadly work, has become an iconic image of the assault on the city.

Two other militants have been named. Like Kasab, according to the Indian media reports, they are said to be from the Multan region, southern Punjab. They, too, are said to be members of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) and to have followed a five-month training period to prepare them for the attack. The charge of the group's involvement, denied by its spokesmen, has explosive political consequences for the volatile region and must be treated with caution. In the long-running contest between India and its neighbour, propaganda and misinformation is far from rare. But if the details now emerging are confirmed, the link to Pakistan may spark war.

For though it is widely acknowledged that Pakistan's civilian government has limited control over local militant groups, it is clear that Pakistan's military and security establishment does.

Lashkar-e-Taiba was originally founded with the support of the Pakistani military intelligence service, the ISI, to fight as 'deniable' proxies in the contested territory of Kashmir, part of a decades-old strategy by the militarily weaker Pakistan to 'bleed' its bigger rival. The ISI also has connections with Jaish-e-Mohammed, the second group that New Delhi security officials has accused of involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

For the moment little is known about the three men named yesterday or their accomplices. But their place of origin comes as no surprise to experts. Both Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed draw the majority of their recruits from the southern Punjab. Last week The Observer travelled to the twin towns of Multan and Bahawalpur, the centres of the region, to investigate the reality of the groups' power on the ground, their relations with the Pakistani intelligence services and the factors which drive young men, possibly including the Mumbai gunmen, to join them.

Trace a line from where US special forces battle Taliban fighters in the corner of empty desert where the Afghan, Pakistani and Iranian frontiers meet, follow it through the badlands of the Pakistani North West Frontier and on through the bomb-blasted cities of northern Pakistan and down through Delhi, attacked in September, to shell-shocked Mumbai, and one thing becomes clear: this zone has displaced the Middle East as the new central front in the struggle against Islamic militancy. The southern Punjab falls on the line's centre point. There may be doubt over the identity of the attackers, but there is none that Multan and Bahawalpur and villages such as Faridkot are in the Indians' sights.

For most militants in the region the story - and that of Azam Amir Kasab is unlikely to be very different - starts at school. The southern Punjab has one of the highest concentrations of religious schools or madrassas in south Asia. Most teach the ultra-conservative Deobandi strand of Islam that is also followed by the Afghan Taliban and, crucially in this desperately poor land, offers free classes, board and lodging to students.

In Bahawalpur the Jaish-e-Mohammed group, believed responsible for a string of brutal attacks across south Asia, including the murder of Jewish American journalist Daniel Pearl, has been linked to two such madrassas. One is the headquarters of the group - a semi-fortified and forbidding complex in the centre of the town. The other is the Dar-ul-Uloom Medina, where the brother-in-law of Rashid Rauf, the Bahawalpur-based suspected British militant thought to have been killed in an American missile attack eight days ago, is a teacher. Surrounded by some of the 700 students, he told The Observer that 'jihad' was the duty of all his young charges.

The pupils at the more radical Bahawalpur and Multan schools grow up soaked in extremist ideology. The most senior cleric in Bahawalpur, Maulana Riaz Chugti, said his students could only go 'for training or to fight' after their studies or when the schools were shut for the holy month of Ramadan.

'To fight in Afghanistan or Kashmir and to struggle against the forces who are against Islam is our religious duty,' Chugti, who oversees the education of 40,000 students, told The Observer.

In Bahawalpur both the effects and the limits of the recent reversal of policy by the ISI, the powerful Pakistani military intelligence service, are evident. A crackdown on the militant groups was launched after they were blamed for a bloody attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 which almost brought India and Pakistan to open war. The groups, previously seen as a strategic asset, were suddenly seen as, at least for the moment, a liability. When their operatives were linked to plots to assassinate the then President, and evidence of collusion with al-Qaeda itself became clear, the pressure mounted on the ISI to rein in their former protégés.

'The militants have had to lower their profile,' said one local security official. 'They are no longer recruiting or preaching or raising funds openly. Things are much more difficult for them. If they recruit at all they do it individual by individual, not en masse like before. There is no production line.'

But the groups - along with break-away outfits with their roots in sectarian Shia-Sunni violence in the region - still have a significant presence in the region, particularly in remote villages such as that of Azam Amir Kasab. 'They may be semi-retired, but in my village there are 300 men who have fought in Afghanistan and have training and can be activated with one phone call,' one local former militant said. That fighters for one operation should come from the same place was not surprising. 'When I went to Afghanistan I went with five guys who I knew from school,' he said.

The young men of the southern Punjab have been found across a broad swath of south Asia and even further afield. In Kabul in August, The Observer interviewed Abit, a 23-year-old from Bahawalpur who had surrendered to Afghan police seconds before he was supposed to blow himself up in a huge truck bomb. Other militants from the town have been found as far away as Bangladesh. Lashkar-e-Taiba members have even been located in Iraq.

The groups are also of great interest to British intelligence services, who fear their key role as intermediaries between young volunteers from the UK's Muslim community - such as Rauf - and al-Qaeda leaders based in the volatile tribal zones along Pakistan's western frontier. The groups, the sources say, have a UK support network to supply funding.

The groups' relationship with the intelligence services is complex. Front organisations for the groups have even put up candidates in recent elections and travel without fear throughout Pakistan. Earlier this year The Observer interviewed a representative of one group alleged to be linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba in the foyer of a luxury Lahore hotel.

Local politicians said groups in the region were still powerful enough to intimidate the local government and security forces and even to collect tax or mediate in legal disputes in some areas. Roshan Gilani, a Shia community leader in Bahawalpur, said music shops had received Taliban-style threats, telling them to close or risk violence. Prominent Shias have been told they are on a hit list.

Until the Mumbai attacks, the recent series of bombings in India had been attributed by most analysts to a home-grown militant outfit: the Indian Mujahideen. With many highly educated and middle-class recruits among its ranks, and led by a 36-year-old computer engineer, the group's members have a very different profile from the Pakistani groups' recruits. But though their paths may be very different, the militants' eventual destination - fanaticism, violence and hate - are the same.

Intelligence agencies have done much research since 9/11 into how individuals become terrorist killers. Dehumanising the enemy is seen as key. Civilians are no longer seen as innocent but as complicit in a war waged by their governments against Islam. Group dynamics also play a huge role, particularly when teams of militants are isolated from normal society for long periods of time. Training camps - such as those in which Azam Amir Kasab is said to have spent months - are the perfect way of reinforcing solidarity and the new 'world view' which will allow them to execute murderous operations, such as killing diners in a hotel restaurant in cold blood.

Indian authorities believe local members of the Indian Mujahideen may have acted as scouts to prepare the ground and gather intelligence before the attack. Security services now recognise that militant groups looking to prepare attacks seek out resources and often enter into temporary coalitions with other outfits when necessary. Though criminal links to Islamic militants are rare, they are not unknown, and there are some suggestions that local underworld networks may have been exploited to get the attackers to the targets by sea.
India's terror groups

Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure)

Battling to end Indian rule in Kashmir, this Pakistan-based group is routinely blamed by Indian security forces for attacks. The surviving gunman arrested in Mumbai is said to be a member.

Maoists, also known as Naxalites

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said the Maoists are the most serious threat to national security. Their battles with police cause a steady death toll.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

The violence caused by this Sri Lanka-based separatist group spilled into India in 1991 when a suicide bomber killed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Sikh separatists

President Indira Gandhi's Sikh bodyguards shot her in 1984 in revenge for the hundreds killed when the military, aiming to suppress separatist militants, stormed a temple in Amritsar. Riots followed.

Students Islamic Movement of India

An Islamist fundamentalist organisation. Indian police suspect involvement in the attack on Jaipur this summer.

United Liberation Front of Asom

Formed in 1979 to establish a 'socialist Assam' through armed struggle. One of many such groups in north-east India.

Independent : British Muslims have become a mainstay of the global 'jihad'

Saturday, November 29, 2008

British Muslims have become a mainstay of the global 'jihad'

Analysis by Kim Sengupta | November 29, 2008

More than 4,000 British Muslims have passed through terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to security agencies, providing a fertile recruitment pool for the Islamist international jihad.

Men from the UK's Kashmiri community have joined groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, the prime suspects in the Mumbai attacks, which have been fighting against Indian forces in Kashmir. Others from a Pakistani background are in the ranks of the Taliban and other groups taking part in action against British and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

A former commander of the British force in Helmand, Brigadier Ed Butler, has revealed that his troops had come across British Muslims in southern Afghanistan. "There are British passport holders who live in the UK who are being found in places such as Kandahar," he said. "There is a link between Kandahar and urban conurbations in the UK. This is something the military understands, but the British public does not."

Last year, RAF Nimrod intelligence-gathering aircraft tracking Taliban radio signals in Afghanistan heard insurgent fighters speaking with Yorkshire and Midlands accents.

As well as fighters joining their ranks, groups such as Lashkar also benefit from funds raised on their behalf in the UK by the Muslim community. It has also been claimed that some of the aid money donated for the earthquake disaster relief three years ago was siphoned off for militant groups.

Lashkar, previously known as Jaish-e-Mohammed, has forged links with al-Qa'ida in Pakistan and are said to have shared training camps. One of their most famous recruits was Rashid Rauf, accused of being a key member in the plot to blow up transatlantic airliners, who was recently reported to have been killed in an American missile strike.

British Muslim recruits have also been involved in other conflicts. Asif Hanif, 21, from London, killed three people and injured 55 by blowing himself up in Tel Aviv. A companion, Omar Sharif, 27, from Derby fled the scene after explosives strapped to his body failed to detonate and was later found dead, his body washed up on an Israeli beach.

Somalia's transitional government has accused Britain of being the main source of money and men for the fighters of the Islamist Courts Union (ICU), a fundamentalist group, in the country. The then deputy prime minister, Hussain Mohammed Aideed, declared: "The ICU's main support was coming from London, paying cash to the ICU against the government. Among those who died in the war with the ICU wereBritish passport holders."

The Independent, in Mogadishu after the Somali capital was taken over by Islamist forces last summer, discovered a significant number of young Somalis who had returned to fight for the Islamists from the diaspora in the West. Half a dozen young men, including two brothers from Wood Green in north London, were acting as bodyguards for Sheik Yusuf, one of the main Islamist commanders. One of the brothers, Hamid, said at the time: "The true Muslims are the only ones who are honest and who are patriots. We are doing our duty by fighting for the cause of Islam, which is above all countries."

Britain has also been accused of being the centre where a number of terrorist plots abroad were planned. Moutaz Almallah Dabas, a Syrian-born Spanish citizen accused of helping those who took part in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, was extradited from London to Spain after the discovery of links between the attack and an alleged cell in England.

Daily Express : Butchers Of Mumbai Are Brits

Friday, November 28, 2008


By Paul Jeeves, John Twomey and Cyril Dixon | November 29, 2008

Anti-terror police were last night investigating a “British connection” with the Mumbai fanatics.

They were examining links between Britain’s Islamic community and the killers who slaughtered at least 160 victims.

Highly-placed sources in India claimed that at least seven of the killers, who caused carnage in India’s commercial centre, had strong British connections.

Two of them were said to come from Leeds, as did two of the four London July 7 bombers.

Another of the gunmen – all believed to be from Pakistani backgrounds – was alleged to have links to Bradford in West Yorkshire and a fourth to Hartlepool on Teesside. Investigations are also underway in Dewsbury, Yorkshire.

Although there was no official confirmation of the links, counter-terrorism officers were last night understood to be active across the North.

The clearest evidence of British involvement came from Indian Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who said that two British-born Pakistanis were among eight arrested.

Last night one of the Indian commandos involved in the gun battles said they had seized at least five BlackBerry devices which the Islamic extremists had used to access British news websites, including live TV streams.

A senior officer in the country’s elite Black Cat commando unit said the devices meant that the terrorists could keep abreast of developments outside their boltholes even when power supplies to the hotels they were attacking were cut off.

“There was a lot of content from the English media, not just in London but the Urdu and Arabic sites that are very strong in the North of England,” he said. “We have some analysis started on this and we will pass it on to Scotland Yard.”

A senior security source said: “The situation is far from clear, but you cannot rule out the possibility that a number of young men from home-grown communities are mixed up.”

A police source said: “We are probing the underbelly of religious extremism but are having to tread extremely carefully. The fallout of 7/7 is still rife among these communities and there is a real reluctance to co-operate.

“It is a fast-moving situation in India, but we have to be on top of things as they emerge and cannot rule out any links to the UK.” The source added: “The camps in Pakistan are full and many of the people inside are Britons.”

The source suggested that the attack could have been revenge for the killing of Rashid Rauf, a British Al Qaeda chief blown up by the US last week.

Some sources speculated that Rauf, the son of a baker, may even have helped to plan the mounting of outrages similar to the Mumbai massacre.

Birmingham-born Rauf, said to have been linked to an alleged plot to set off bombs on packed transatlantic planes, died in a missile attack.

A leading British expert on terrorism also suggested that coverage of the Mumbai atrocity was creating a new phenomenon – celebrity terrorism.

“What the Mumbai terrorists really wanted was an exaggerated and preferably extreme reaction on the part of governments, the media and public opinion,” said Paul Cornish, head of Chatham House think-tank.

“In these terms, the attackers received as much attention as they could possibly have hoped for, and the Mumbai outrage can only be described as a very significant terrorist success. Welcome to the age of celebrity terrorism.”

Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Prime Minister Gordon Brown both said it was too early to confirm whether the gunmen in Mumbai were British – but added that the possibility was being investigated.

The British Al Qaeda connection was exposed on July 7 2005 when four Muslim fanatics killed 52 innocent people in suicide bomb attacks on the London transport network.

Ringleader Mohammad Sidique Khan came from Dewsbury and had recruited his cohorts in West Yorkshire mosques.

The 31-year-old teaching assistant brainwashed British-born Hasib Hussain, 18, and Shehzad Tanweer, 22, both from Leeds, and Jamaican-born Germaine Lindsay, 19, from Aylesbury, Bucks, to join him.

British anti-terror police are now running photographs and film footage of the estimated 25 Mumbai gunmen and potential suspects through the latest image-recognition computers.

A spokesman for Counter-Terrorism North confirmed their involvement in investigating possible links.

But he stressed: “At this stage, we are not in receipt of any intelligence or information linking the events in India to our area.”

The two Britons believed to have been arrested were seized after commandos stormed two five-star hotels and a Jewish centre in attempts to free hostages.

Boston Globe : Indian forces assault center held by militants

Friday, November 28, 2008

Indian forces assault center held by militants

Death toll in Mumbai attacks rises to 125

By Mark Magnier and Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times | November 28, 2008

MUMBAI, India - Indian security forces assaulted a Jewish center in Mumbai where Muslim militants were believed holed up with possible hostages early today, after a chaotic day of gunfire and explosions in which the toll in coordinated terrorist attacks rose to 125 dead.

Commandos dropped from a helicopter as sharpshooters opened fire on the five-story headquarters of the Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch. Six trucks of soldiers had been brought in to surround the building.

The attack occurred as Indian forces rooted through two smoldering luxury hotels here this morning, searching for survivors, the dead, and the last of the gunmen whose choreographed rampage of terror through this cosmopolitan city spawned a mystery about their identities and motive.

Snipers stationed in buildings opposite the Chabad center began the attack there, with sustained fire on the building as at least nine commandos lowered themselves by rope onto the roof from an Indian Air Force helicopter. The outcome of the firefight was not immediately clear.

By midmorning today, officials estimated that possibly 10 militants remained at large - one in the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel and four others in the Oberoi hotel, with another five holed up in the Jewish center.

They said 15 hotel guests, mostly foreigners, remained trapped inside a 21-floor wing of the Oberoi.

Ten hostages believed to be Israeli citizens were being held at the Jewish center, in Nariman House, where Indian security forces launched a counterattack as the city awoke.

"We watched 24 commandoes surround the building," said Bharat Phulsunge, a 28-year-old insurance agent. "We can hear gunfire and explosions from inside. It's still very tense." Earlier yesterday, two workers and a child escaped from the building, the only people to emerge so far. The child was identified as Moshe Holtzberg, 2, the son of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, a New York native and the main representative at Chabad House. The child was unharmed, but his clothes were soaked in blood.

More than 325 people were injured in Wednesday's terrorist attacks, according to official reports. The injured included three Americans. Eight foreigners were among the dead.

Indian military commandos continued to exchange fire with an unknown number of militants yesterday as the drama unfolded, one day after gunmen pounced on India's financial capital, storming several public places, including the Jewish center, a train station, and hospitals.

Nine suspects reportedly were in custody.

The attacks apparently targeted American, Israeli, and British citizens for use as hostages, the officials said. The dead included at least one Australian, a Japanese, and a British national. A dozen police officers also were slain, including the leader of Mumbai's antiterrorist unit.

Throughout the day, commandos brought hostages, trapped guests, and bodies out of the hotels in small groups while firefighters battled blazes that erupted periodically. US officials in India checked with local authorities and hospitals to learn the extent of the casualties involving Americans.

More than 400 people were brought out of the Taj Mahal hotel. Authorities said they had killed three gunmen at the hotel. It remained unclear how many dead lay uncounted.

A solemn Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the nation by television yesterday evening, pledging that the militants "would not succeed in their nefarious design." Singh asserted that the group behind the attacks "was based outside the country," and warned India's neighbors "that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated."

After past terrorist attacks, Indian leaders have pointed the finger at Pakistani Islamic extremists or intelligence operatives, two forces that often team up for operations in South Asia. Pakistan's defense minister condemned the Mumbai attacks yesterday and warned India to refrain from blaming Pakistan, a longtime rival.

President Bush telephoned Singh to express his condolences and offer assistance to India as it works "to restore order, provide safety to its people and comfort to the victims and their families, and investigate these despicable acts," according to a White House spokeswoman.

President-elect Barack Obama's transition team issued a statement condemning the attacks.

The violence began Wednesday evening as militants invaded the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi, two luxury hotels favored by foreigners. They fired automatic weapons and threw grenades, sending panicked guests scrambling for safety and trapping others inside the hotels.

Several witnesses said the gunmen demanded to see passports from cornered guests, separating American and British tourists from the others.

The victims included Mumbai's antiterrorism chief, Hemant Karkare, and two of his senior police officers, which complicated the law enforcement response to the attacks. Television video showed Karkare donning a flak jacket and helmet minutes before heading into one of the hotels.

Witnesses said the attackers appeared to fire at random and made no effort to hide their identities, which, analysts suggested, signaled a readiness to die.

Local government officials said as many as four attackers were killed and nine suspects were arrested.

Throughout yesterday, a series of explosions and fires continued to rage at the Taj Majal Palace. Late in the afternoon, military officials said most of the hostages there had been freed, adding that some guests might be in their rooms, fearful of emerging amid gunfire.

Soon after dark, numerous Indian commandos emerged from the hotel with guns pointed down, leading observers to surmise that the standoff was over.

Officials said the commandos seized a small arsenal of weapons that included hand grenades, tear gas pistols, knives, and more than 80 magazines of ammunition. Also confiscated were several credit cards with the names and pictures of suspected militants, officials said.

But the Oberoi remained a battle zone late into the day.

M.L. Kumawat, an Indian Home Ministry official, said many of the 21 floors of the Oberoi had been cleared by security agencies, but others were considered dangerous.

Hours after nightfall, another fire erupted at the Oberoi, this time on the 19th floor, witnesses said, and several people were believed trapped by flames.

A previously unknown group calling itself Deccan Mujahedeen on Wednesday said it carried out the attacks, but officials were unclear whether the claim was true. Throughout yesterday, Indian media speculated on how the nation's intelligence network could have been unaware of the organization.

One report indicated that the militants might have come ashore after dark Wednesday. One fisherman told authorities he saw three boats land on the beach.

When a bystander asked one of the men who they were, he reportedly responded, "We're military, just shut up," the witness said.

Most of Mumbai remained in shock yesterday. In many neighborhoods, 80 percent of the businesses remained closed; police warned residents to stay home, where many followed the unfolding drama on television.

Some people referred to the attacks as "India's 9/11," comparing the targeting of India's business elite and foreign investors to the 2001 attacks in the United States. Mumbai is South Asia's financial hub and an entertainment capital, and many of the glitzy targets symbolize the new cosmopolitan face of the world's largest democracy.

Once known as Bombay, the city is home to India's commodities and stock exchanges, which remained closed yesterday.

Although Mumbai has been the scene of several terrorist attacks in recent years, analysts said Wednesday's assaults required a previously unseen degree of reconnaissance and planning.

The scale and synchronization of the attacks pointed to the probable involvement of experienced commanders, some observers said, suggesting possible foreign involvement.

Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

Ha'aretz : India declines Israeli offer of aid delegation to Mumbai

Friday, November 28, 2008

India declines Israeli offer of aid delegation to Mumbai

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent | November 28, 2008

Israel sent a number of intelligence officers to India Thursday to assist in analyzing the major terrorist attack on Mumbai.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak Thursday offered India security, intelligence and humanitarian aid in dealing with the situation.

It appears the Indian government is not interested in high profile security assistance from Israel. Throughout the day, the Homefront Command prepared to send an aid delegation to India, but efforts were halted when it became clear that Mumbai was not enthusiastic about the prospect.

The Israeli defense establishment Thursday avoided stating explicitly if the attack on Chabad House in Mumbai was planned or coincidental. One scenario raised was that the terrorists arrived there randomly while fleeing after an exchange of gunfire with Mumbai police. It is also possible that Chabad was targeted as part of an attack in which hotels were "marked" as points for the abduction and murder of Western tourists, centrally American and British citizens.

Security sources Thursday night said the picture emerging is still unclear and contradictory. Israel is still waiting for the results of the Indian security forces' investigation. If it becomes evident that the attack on Chabad House was planned, it is possible it will be necessary to fortify the security of Jewish institutions worldwide, currently rather relaxed in many countries.

Israeli experts believe the hostage-takers' behavior in Chabad House indicates they were not prepared to hole up and conduct negotiations. Communication with the terrorists is being conducted with a cell phone taken from a hostage. Apparently they also don't have video cameras or broadcast equipment with them.

Boston Globe : Analysts seeking answers, suspects

Friday, November 28, 2008

Analysts seeking answers, suspects

Some doubt Qaeda involved

By Alan Cowell | New York Times | November 28, 2008

PARIS - A day after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 100 people, one question remained as impenetrable as the smoke that still billowed from one of the city's landmark hotels: Who carried out the attack?

Security officials and analysts agreed that the assaults represented a marked departure in scope and ambition from other recent terrorist attacks in India, which targeted local people rather than foreigners and hit single rather than multiple targets.

The Mumbai assault, by contrast, was "uniquely disturbing," said Sajjan Gohel, a security specialist in London, because it seemed directed at foreigners, involved hostage-taking, and was aimed at multiple "soft, symbolic targets." The attacks "aimed to create maximum terror and human carnage and damage the economy," he said by phone.

But the central riddle was the extent to which local assailants had outside support. India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, said the attacks probably had "external linkages," reflecting calculations among Indian officials that the level of planning, preparation, and coordination could not have been achieved without help from experienced terrorists, particularly groups affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The planning of the attack has profound political implications for India and its neighbor, Pakistan. But the identity of the attackers remained a mystery.

An e-mail message to Indian media outlets taking responsibility for the attacks said the militants were from a group called Deccan Mujahedeen. The word "Deccan" refers to a plateau in southern India, and "Mujahedeen" refers to holy warriors. Almost universally, analysts and intelligence officials said that name was unknown.

Deccan is a neighborhood of the Indian city of Hyderabad. The word also describes the middle and south of India, which is dominated by the Deccan Plateau. But the combination of the two words, said Gohel, is a "front name. This group is nonexistent."

"It's even unclear whether it's a real group or not," said Bruce Hoffman, a professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the author of the book "Inside Terrorism."

An Indian security official who spoke in return for anonymity said the name suggested ties to a group called Indian Mujahedeen, which has been implicated in a string of bombing attacks in India that killed about 200 people this year.

On Sept. 15, an e-mail published in Indian newspapers said to have been sent by representatives of Indian Mujahedeen threatened potential "deadly attacks" in Mumbai. The message warned counterterrorism officials in the city that "you are already on our hit list and this time very, very seriously."

Several high-ranking law enforcement officials, including the chief of the antiterrorism squad and a commissioner of police, were reportedly killed in the attacks in Mumbai.

Christine Fair, senior political scientist and a South Asia expert at the RAND Corporation, was careful to say that the identity of the terrorists could not yet be known. But she insisted the style of the attacks and the targets in Mumbai suggested the militants were likely to be Indian Muslims and not linked to Al Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Taiba, another violent South Asian terrorist group.

"There's absolutely nothing Al Qaeda-like about it," she said of the attack. "Did you see any suicide bombers? And there are no fingerprints of Lashkar. They don't do hostage-taking and they don't do grenades."

© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

MSNBC : Rogue wave drowns 3 along Calif. coast

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rogue wave drowns 3 along Calif. coast

Two survive being swept into sea at scenic Point Mugu

AP | November 27, 2008

POINT MUGU, Calif. - Three men drowned after being swept out to sea by a rogue wave while watching the surf from a rocky outcrop along Southern California's coast on Thursday.

Authorities say two other men were pulled from the water Thursday afternoon and survived.

The bodies of the drowned men were also recovered.

Capt. Bruce Norris of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said the victims were 17, 19 and 21.

He said a 17-year-old boy and 27-year-old man survived.

It wasn't immediately clear if the men were related.

The wave struck just before 2 p.m. at Mugu Rock, a rocky outcrop that has appeared in the background of many TV shows, movies and car commercials.

MSNBC : Report: Indian forces prepare to storm hotels

Friday, November 28, 2008

Report: Indian forces prepare to storm hotels

Over 100 killed in coordinated attacks across Mumbai; hundreds still captive

NBC News and news services | November 27, 2008

MUMBAI, India - Indian commandos were preparing to storm the Taj Hotel, Trident-Oberoi and a Jewish center in India's financial capital where militants had trapped or taken hostage scores of people, witnesses and TV channels said, Reuters reported on Thursday.

A short while earlier a huge explosion was heard in the Taj Hotel.

Earlier, black-clad Indian commandos liberated some hostages and recovered a few bodies in the Taj Mahal hotel, nearly a day after teams of gunmen stormed landmarks in the city, killing at least 101 people.

The attacks, which were blamed on Muslim militants, targeted two luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, a crowded train station and a Jewish center. Anees Ahmed, a top state official, had said authorities believed up to 15 foreigners were being held hostage at the Taj Mahal hotel.

Dozens of people were still trapped or held captive on Thursday, among them Americans, Britons, Italians, Swedes, Canadians, Yemenis and New Zealanders. Officials say Australian, Japanese and British nationals are among the dead.

Witnesses said the attackers had specifically targeted Britons and Americans.

Police and gunmen had been exchanging occasional gunfire at the two hotels and dozens of people were believed held hostage or trapped inside the besieged buildings. Pradeep Indulkar, a senior official at the Maharashtra state Home Ministry said that in addition to the 101 people slain, 314 had been injured.

Officials said eight militants had also been killed in the coordinated attacks on at least 10 sites that began around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

'Save us'

A series of explosions had rocked the Taj Mahal just after midnight. Screams were heard and black smoke and flames billowed from the century-old edifice on Mumbai's waterfront. Firefighters sprayed water at the blaze and plucked people from balconies with extension ladders. By dawn, the fire was still burning.

At the nearby upscale Oberoi hotel, soldiers could be seen on the roof of neighboring buildings. A banner hung out of one window read "save us." No one could be seen inside the room from the road.

Mumbai, on the western coast of India overlooking the Arabian Sea, is home to splendid Victorian architecture built during the British Raj and is one of the most populated cities in the world with some 18 million crammed into shantytowns, high rises and crumbling mansions. The Taj Mahal hotel, filled with Oriental carpets, Indian artifacts and alabaster ceilings, overlooks the fabled Gateway of India that commemorated the visit of King George V and Queen Mary.

The motive for the onslaught was not immediately clear, but Mumbai has frequently been targeted in terrorist attacks blamed on Islamic extremists, including a series of bombings in July 2006 that killed 187 people.

Since May a militant group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen has taken credit for a string of blasts that killed more than 130 people. The most recent was in September, when explosions struck a park and crowded shopping areas in the capital, New Delhi, killing 21 people and wounding about 100.

Relations between Hindus, who make up more than 80 percent of India's 1 billion population, and Muslims, who make up about 14 percent, have sporadically erupted into bouts of sectarian violence since British-ruled India was split into independent India and Pakistan in 1947.

Officials at Bombay Hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a Japanese man had died there and nine Europeans had been admitted, three of them in critical condition with gunshots. All had come from the Taj Mahal, the officials said.

The NDTV news channel reported that an explosion had been heard at the Trident hotel and that several Israelis were among hostages being held on the 19th floor. NDTV said commandos were preparing for a counterassault there.

At least three top Indian police officers — including the chief of the anti-terror squad — were among those killed, said A.N. Roy, a top police official.

Alex Chamberlain, a British citizen who was dining at the Oberoi, told Sky News television that a gunman ushered 30 to 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and, speaking in Hindi or Urdu, ordered everyone to put up their hands.

"They were talking about British and Americans specifically. There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: 'Where are you from?' and he said he's from Italy and they said 'fine' and they left him alone. And I thought: 'Fine, they're going to shoot me if they ask me anything' — and thank God they didn't," he said.

Chamberlain said he managed to slip away as the patrons were forced to walk up stairs, but he thought much of the group was being held hostage.

"I guess they were after foreigners, because they were asking for British or American passports," said Rakesh Patel, a British witness who lives in Hong Kong and was staying at the Taj Mahal hotel on business. "They had bombs."

"They came from the restaurant and took us up the stairs," he told the NDTV news channel, smoke stains all over his face. "Young boys, maybe 20 years old, 25 years old. They had two guns."

Police commandos surrounded the headquarters Thursday of the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch, which gunmen had seized overnight during a series of coordinated attacks across this seaside city.

Thousands of gawkers stood in the narrow alleyways near the white, five-story building, where heavy curtains hung behind windows broken by gunfire. Neighbors had tried to protect the house as armed gunmen seized it Wednesday night.

A witness said three people were killed in the attack, but the account could not be confirmed.

"It seems that the terrorists commandeered a police vehicle which allowed them easy access to the area of the Chabad house and threw a grenade at a gas pump nearby," said Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, a spokesman for the Lubavitch movement in New York, adding the attackers then "stormed the Chabad house."

The house serves as an educational center, a synagogue and offers drug prevention services.

'Shot indiscriminately'

Residents tried to protect the center, clashing with the gunmen and throwing rocks at them in an effort to drive the militants away, said Puran Doshi, a local businessman who lives nearby.

The crowd eventually retreated under fire from the gunmen, who wounded one man, killed three others and threw several hand grenades, he said. Police could not immediately confirm his account.

"They shot indiscriminately into the crowd," Doshi said.

Sanjay Bhasme, 40, who lives in the building behind Chabad house, said he notified the police after the shooting began about 9:45 p.m., but no police arrived for more than 30 minutes — and only after he'd repeatedly telephoned for help.

Shmotkin said he had been unable to confirm reports that a couple and a teenager had been killed in the melee. He did not know the status of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, the main representative at Chabad house, or the rabbi's family.

'Catch them dead or alive'

Early Thursday, state Home Secretary Bipin Shrimali said four suspects had been killed in two incidents in Mumbai when they tried to flee in cars, and Roy said four more gunmen were killed at the Taj Mahal. State Home Minister R.R. Patil said nine more were arrested. They declined to provide any further details.

"We're going to catch them dead or alive," Patil told reporters. "An attack on Mumbai is an attack on the rest of the country."

An Indian media report said a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen had claimed responsibility for the attacks in e-mails to several media outlets. There was no way to verify that claim.

The state government ordered schools and colleges and the Bombay Stock Exchange closed Thursday.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said U.S. officials were not aware of any American casualties, but were still checking.

"We condemn these attacks and the loss of innocent life," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Gun attack on train station

Blood smeared the grounds of the 19th century Chhatrapati Shivaji railroad station — a beautiful example of Victorian Gothic architecture — where attackers sprayed bullets into the crowded terminal.

Photos in the Mumbai Mirror newspaper showed a young gunman — dressed like a college student in cargo pants and a black T-shirt — walking casually through the station, an assault rifle hanging from one hand and two knapsacks slung over a shoulder.

Nasim Inam, a witness said four of the attackers gunned down scores of commuters. "They just fired randomly at people and then ran away. In seconds, people fell to the ground."

Other gunmen attacked Leopold's restaurant, a landmark popular with foreigners, and the police headquarters in southern Mumbai, the area where most of the attacks took place. The restaurant was riddled with bullet holes and there was blood on the floor and shoes left by fleeing customers. Gunmen also attacked Cama and Albless Hospital and G.T. Hospital, though it was not immediately clear if anyone was killed.

Early Thursday, several European lawmakers were among those who barricaded themselves inside the Taj, a century-old seaside hotel complex and one of the city's best-known destinations.

"I was in the main lobby and there was all of a sudden a lot of firing outside," said Sajjad Karim, part of a delegation of European lawmakers visiting Mumbai ahead of a European Union-India summit.

As he turned to get away, "all of a sudden another gunmen appeared in front of us, carrying machine gun-type weapons. And he just started firing at us ... I just turned and ran in the opposite direction," he told The Associated Press over his cell phone.

Hours later, Karim remained holed up in a hotel restaurant, unsure if it was safe to come out.


Major attacks in India since 2005

Nov. 26, 2008:
Series of shooting and grenade attacks, including two on luxury hotels, kill at least 78 people and wound 100 in Mumbai, India's main commercial city.

Sept. 13, 2008:
At least five explosions in crowded shopping areas kill 21 and wound 100 in New Delhi, national capital.

July 26, 2008:
Some 16 small bombs explode in Ahmedabad, killing 45.

July 25, 2008:
Seven small bombs kill two in Bangalore, hub of India's technology industry.

May 13, 2008:
Seven bombs hit crowded markets and streets outside Hindu temples in Jaipur, killing 80.

Nov. 24, 2007:
Nearly simultaneous explosions rip courthouse complexes in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad, killing 16.

Aug. 25, 2007:
Forty-three people killed by three explosions at park and street-side food stall in Hyderabad.

May 18, 2007:
Bomb during Friday prayers at historic mosque in Hyderabad kills 11 worshippers. Police later fatally shoot five people during clashes with Muslims protesting attack.

Feb. 19, 2007:
Train heading from India to Pakistan torn apart by two bombs, sparking fire that kills 68.

July 11, 2006:
Seven blasts rip through rail stations and commuter trains in Mumbai, killing 187.

March 7, 2006:
Three explosions rock Hindu temple and train station in Hindu holy city of Varanasi, killing 20.

Oct. 29, 2005:
Sixty-two people killed by three blasts at markets in New Delhi ahead of Hindu holiday of Diwali.

Source: The Associated Press

Times : Intelligence chiefs were expecting Al-Qaeda spectacular

Friday, November 28, 2008

Intelligence chiefs were expecting Al-Qaeda spectacular

Michael Evans, Defence Editor | November 27, 2008

Western intelligence services have been expecting an al-Qaeda spectacular terrorist attack in this crucial period between the end of President George Bush’s administration and the succession of Barack Obama.

Signals intelligence “chatter” in recent weeks indicated that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organisation might be plotting an attack “to grab the headlines” before Mr Obama takes over in the White House on January 20.

British security and intelligence sources said there had been increasing concern, particularly in the United States, that a “terrorist spectacular” was on the cards.

The multiple attacks on Westerners in Bombay last night showed all the signs of an al-Qaeda strategy — picking on vulnerable Western “soft targets” but not in a country where there would be maximum security. The attacks on Western targets in Bali in 2002 when al-Qaeda-linked terrorists planted bombs in tourist-favoured restaurants and clubs was another example where the group switched its resources to achieve maximum impact.

Counter-terrorist experts last night said that India would have been selected for the latest spectacular “probably because that’s where al-Qaeda has sufficient resources to carry out an attack on this scale. They don’t choose for the sake of it, they look to see where they have the greatest capability and then order an attack,” a counter-terror expert told The Times.

The key to this latest attack was the search by the armed terrorists for American and British passport holders. With a reported 40 Britons held hostage, the terrorists have the upper hand. The counter-terrorist sources said targeting Bombay’s most luxurious hotels and a crowded railway station had all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda operation.

Bombay has been targeted before when 180 people died during a bomb attack on the railway station in 2006, but that incident was put down to militants, not al-Qaeda, and the Indian government suspected that the attackers had links to Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI.

This attack, however, involving the taking of Western hostages made it more likely that the operation’s masterminds were from the core leadership of al-Qaeda, which is based in the lawless tribal regions close to the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.

The Americans have been expecting an atrocity partly because of the recent CIA success in eliminating figures in al-Qaeda, using Predator unmanned drones, firing Hellfire missiles at hideouts in the tribal regions of Pakistan. About a dozen al-Qaeda figures have been killed this year.

Although an unknown group claimed responsibility last night, the taking of Western hostages and the deliberate seeking out of American and British citizens indicated a “typical al-Qaeda-style activity”, according to security sources.

Other sources said India was the home of a complicated network of terrorists and it might be too early to jump to the conclusion that it was an al-Qaeda operation. “It seems to be a highly opportunistic attack,” one source said.

However, this is traditionally the way al-Qaeda works. The leadership decides an attack should take place and leaves its franchise operators to decide how best to carry it out. Many of the gunmen appeared to be young but they also seemed confident, suggesting that they were well trained.

As the unprecedented scale of the attacks became clear last night, it looked to be the most co-ordinated terrorist operation since the targeting of the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.

Dozens of gunmen were involved in up to 19 different attacks, although the main focus seemed to be the taking of foreign hostages and detaining them in two of Bombay’s most prestigious hotels.

Judging by the apparent cockiness of at least one of the gunmen caught looking into television cameras, these terrorists were clearly prepared to die for their cause.

Al-Qaeda as an organisation has proved in the past that it has the capability to coordinate multiple attacks. Last night an organisation calling itself Deecan Mujahideen claimed responsibility but, as in the past when unknown groups came forward to admit involvement, the name was neither recognizable nor relevant. The sheer audacity of the terrorists are all familiar elements of al-Qaeda’.

Worst attacks

1979 Militant Islamic students in Iran stormed the US embassy in Tehran, taking 90 hostages. They demanded the extradition of the Shah of Iran from the US, to stand trial in Iran. The hostages were freed in 1981, after 444 days

1993 A car bomb exploded under the World Trade Centre, killing six and injuring more than 1,000. The mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, had been trained in Afghanistan

1995 Sarin nerve gas attack in Tokyo subway kills 12 and injures about 6,000. Shoko Asahara, founder of Aum cult responsible, sentenced to death in 2004

2001 Two aeroplanes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, a third crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Excluding the 19 hijackers, 2,974 people died in the attacks by al-Qaeda

2002 A terrorist attack on the island of Bali killed 202 people. Two bombs ripped through a nightclub area in Kuta district

2004 Ten bombs exploded on four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 and leaving 1,800 injured. A group affiliated with al-Qaeda claimed responsibility

2005 Explosions on London’s transport system killed 52 and injured 700

(Source: Times archives)

Times : Analysis: a new tactic by Islamist militants

Friday, November 28, 2008

Analysis: a new tactic by Islamist militants

The group that claimed to be behind last night’s attacks on Bombay -- the Deccan Mujahideen — has not hitherto been heard of in India, let alone in the outside world. But it could be an offshoot of the Indian Mujahideen, an Islamist group that was also unknown until it said it had caused a series of multiple bomb attacks on Indian cities in the past year.

Last night’s attacks also appear to fit into a new campaign to hit busy urban targets, popular with foreigners and wealthy Indians, to cause maximum damage to India’s economy and international reputation. Many of last night’s targets — especially the Taj and Oberoi hotels — are frequented by tourists, diplomats and foreign business people as well as the city’s own wealthy elite.

The Taj is one of India’s best-known colonial buildings and is next to the Gateway of India, which was built in 1911 to mark a visit by George V and is one of India’s most popular tourist sites.

India has blamed most of the recent terrorist attacks on Islamist militant groups based in Pakistan or Bangladesh which, it says, have links to Pakistan’s intelligence service. Other alleged culprits include Maoist rebels and separatist groups in India’s remote northeast, on the borders of China, Bangladesh and Myanmar. But this year, the Indian Mujahideen has said that it has carried out multiple bomb attacks that have killed more than 130 people in the cities of Delhi, Bangalore, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

In September the group threatened to attack Bombay, accusing the city’s Anti-Terrorism Squad of harassing Muslims. It is also reported to have threatened British and US targets in India.

Some terrorism experts say the Indian Mujahideen is a front for an older group called the Students Islamic Movement of India, which they say has links to Pakistan.

Others decribe it as the first homegrown terrorist group to have emerged from India’s 151 million strong Muslim population.

India’s Muslims have long complained of discrimination at the hands of its Hindu majority. Many also object to Indian rule in Kashmir, the Muslim majority region claimed by both india and Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda has repeatedly threatened to attack India in revenge for its policies in Kashmir, although Indian security officials maintain that the group has no active presence within the country.

The picture has this month been complicated by the arrest of a senior military intelligence officer on suspicion of involvement in a bomb attack by Hindu extremists in western India in September. Colonel Srikant Prasad Purohit is the first serving officer in India’s Army — seen as a bastion of secularism since the country won independence in 1947 — to be arrested on terrorism charges.

Police are now investigating whether he and other members of Abhinav Bharat (New India), a Hindu nationalist organisation, were behind other recent bomb attacks. Abhinav Bharat’s president is Himani Savarkar, the niece of the Hindu radical who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.

Indian officials said that it was too early to say which of these groups carried out last night’s attacks, but the scale, complexity and targets suggested that it was the work of an Islamist group.

Rakesh Patel, a British citizen who was staying in the Oberoi, said that the gunmen had asked specifically for British and American passport-holders. “They were looking for foreigners,” he told India’s NDTV channel.

Islamic militants have been blamed for all the recent attacks on Bombay, including multiple bombings of trains and railways stations that killed more than 180 people in 2006. In 2001 an assault on the Indian parliament by Islamic militants left 12 people dead and almost led to war between India and Pakistan.

If India accuses Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency of masterminding this attack, it will almost certainly cause another crisis in already tense bilateral relations.

Pressure will now increase on the Indian Government to overhaul its counter-terrorism infrastructure in time for the national elections, due before May.

UPI : Mumbai bears brunt of violence in India

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai bears brunt of violence in India

November 26, 2008

MUMBAI, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Mumbai, whose heart and suburbs are home to 20 million people, is India's money and business capital but also its main target of violence and terrorism.

The latest confirmation of that came overnight when a number of heavily armed gunmen went on an hours-long killing spree throughout the city that left more than 300 dead and wounded. It was one of the worst terror attacks the country has witnessed.

A BBC report said in the past 20 years the western port city, which is the capital of Maharashtra state and home to the world's largest cinema industry, called Bollywood, has been the scene of communal riots, bomb attacks, gang violence and political assassinations.

In the latest attacks, the targets included the one of the world's busiest rail stations, hotels and restaurants frequented by locals and visiting business leaders, the report said. It said the attackers may have wanted to bring down business confidence and deter foreigners from investing in the booming economy of the world's largest democracy.

The report quoted some as raising a question whether the attacks were also designed to undermine latest efforts to improve ties between India and Pakistan.

A CNN report said the attacks came just after Asif Ali Zardari, the new Pakistani president, went farther than any of his predecessors in expressing a desire for better ties with India. Zardari was quoted as saying he would even like to see the two nuclear powers jointly fight terrorism.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution : Gates wants to know if military ready at home

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gates wants to know if military ready at home

By Lolita C. Baldor | Associated Press | November 27, 2008

Washington —- Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered his top department leaders to conduct a broad review to determine whether the military, National Guard and Reserve can adequately deal with domestic disasters and whether they have the training and equipment to defend the homeland.

A 41-page memo issued Monday signaled an acknowledgment that the military must better recognize the critical role of the National Guard and Reserves in homeland defense, but stopped short of requiring many specific policy changes.

His memo comes in the wake of a stinging 400-page independent commission report that concluded the military isn’t ready for a catastrophic attack on this country, and that National Guard forces don’t have the equipment or training they need for the job.

That report, released early this year by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, said the Pentagon must use the nation’s citizen soldiers to create an operational force that would be fully trained, equipped and ready to defend the nation, respond to crises and supplement the active duty troops in combat.

In response, Gates said that indeed the Guard and Reserves are an integral part of the force and have assumed a greater role in military operations. And he pressed his top leaders to review the training that active duty and reserve troops receive for homeland defense and civil support missions, as opposed to the warfighting now consuming them.

He gave them 25 days to submit their proposed changes, along with any budget impact they might have, in connection with 53 separate recommendations. He said 29 more recommendations are under way or finished.

The commission’s report included 95 recommendations. But Gates did not order many of the changes urged by the commission to give National Guard and Reserve troops better access to promotions, military training and education programs and other benefits. Instead, in most cases he ordered leaders in the Defense Department and the military services to review their programs to determine whether changes are needed.

His overall tone, however, pressed officials to better integrate reservists into the modern military and consider treating them on a more equal basis with active duty troops. Separately, he asked for more detailed proposals to better develop funding for Guard and Reserve programs and equipment.

Arnold Punaro, who was chairman of the commission, welcomed Gates’ recommendations, saying that improving the military’s role in homeland defense and enhancing the clout of the reserves “represent a historic break with the past.”

“Make no mistake, his decisions are aimed at landmark changes, changes that are essential if the Guard and Reserves are to remain fully capable of meeting current and future threats,” Punaro said.

NYT : At Least 100 Dead in India Terror Attacks

Friday, November 28, 2008

At Least 100 Dead in India Terror Attacks

By SOMINI SENGUPTA | November 27, 2008

MUMBAI, India — Coordinated terrorist attacks struck the heart of Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, on Wednesday night, killing dozens in machine-gun and grenade assaults on at least two five-star hotels, the city’s largest train station, a Jewish center, a movie theater and a hospital.

Even by the standards of terrorism in India, which has suffered a rising number of attacks this year, the assaults were particularly brazen in scale and execution. The attackers used boats to reach the urban peninsula where they hit, and their targets were sites popular with tourists.

The Mumbai police said Thursday that the attacks killed at least 101 people and wounded at least 250. Guests who had escaped the hotels told television stations that the attackers were taking hostages, singling out Americans and Britons.

A previously unknown group claimed responsibility, though that claim could not be confirmed. It remained unclear whether there was any link to outside terrorist groups.

Gunfire and explosions rang out into the morning.

Hours after the assaults began, the landmark Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, next to the famed waterfront monument the Gateway of India, was in flames.

Guests banged on the windows of the upper floors as firefighters worked to rescue them.

Fire also raged inside the luxurious Oberoi Hotel, according to the police. A militant hidden in the Oberoi told India TV on Thursday morning that seven attackers were holding hostages there.

“We want all mujahedeen held in India released, and only after that we will release the people,” he said.Some guests, including two members of the European Parliament who were visiting as part of a trade delegation, remained in hiding in the hotels, making desperate cellphone calls, some of them to television stations, describing their ordeal.

Alex Chamberlain, a British citizen who was dining at the Oberoi, told Sky News television that a gunman had ushered 30 or 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and, speaking in Hindi or Urdu, ordered them to put up their hands.

“They were talking about British and Americans specifically,” he said. “There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said, ‘Where are you from?’ and he said he’s from Italy, and they said, ‘Fine,’ and they left him alone.”

Sajjad Karim, 38, a British member of the European Parliament, told Sky News: “A gunman just stood there spraying bullets around, right next to me.”

Before his phone went dead, Mr. Karim added: “I managed to turn away and I ran into the hotel kitchen and then we were shunted into a restaurant in the basement. We are now in the dark in this room, and we have barricaded all the doors. It’s really bad.”

Attackers had also entered Cama and Albless Hospital, according to Indian television reports, and struck Nariman House, which is home to the city’s Chabad-Lubavitch center.

A spokesman for the Lubavitch movement in New York, Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, told the Associated Press that attackers “stormed the Chabad house” in Mumbai.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was trying to locate an unspecified number of Israelis missing in Mumbai, according to, the Web site of an Israeli newspaper.

Several high-ranking law enforcement officials, including the chief of the antiterrorism squad and a commissioner of police, were reported killed.

The military was quickly called in to assist the police.

Hospitals in Mumbai, a city of more than 12 million that was formerly called Bombay, have appealed for blood donations. As a sense of crisis gripped much of the city, schools, colleges and the stock exchange were closed Thursday.

Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister for Maharashtra State, where Mumbai is, told the CNN-IBN station that the attacks hit five to seven targets, concentrated in the southern tip of the city, known as Colaba and Nariman Point. But even hours after the attacks began, the full scope of the assaults was unclear.

Unlike previous attacks in India this year, which consisted of anonymously planted bombs, the assailants on Wednesday night were spectacularly well-armed and very confrontational. In some cases, said the state’s highest-ranking police official, A. N. Roy, the attackers opened fire and disappeared.

Indian officials said the police had killed six of the suspected attackers and captured nine.

A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahedeen said it had carried out the attacks. It was not known who the group is or whether the claim was real.

Around midnight, more than two hours after the series of attacks began, television images from near the historic Metro Cinema showed journalists and bystanders ducking for cover as gunshots rang out. The charred shell of a car lay in front of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly Victoria Terminus, the mammoth railway station. A nearby gas station was blown up.

The landmark Leopold Café, a favorite tourist spot, was also hit.

Reached by phone, some guests who had been trapped in the Taj said about 1 a.m. that they had heard an explosion and gunfire in the old wing of the hotel.

A 31-year-old man who was in the Taj attending a friend’s wedding reception said he was getting a drink around 9:45 p.m. when he heard something like firecrackers — “loud bursts” interspersed with what sounded like machine-gun fire.

A window of the banquet hall shattered, and guests scattered under tables and were quickly escorted to another room, he said. No one was allowed to leave.

Just before 1 a.m., another loud explosion rang out, and then another about a half-hour later, the man said.

At 6 a.m., he said that when the guests tried to leave the room early Thursday, gunmen opened fire. One person was shot.

The man’s friend, the groom, was two floors above, in the old wing of the hotel, trapped in a room with his bride. One explosion, he said, took the door off its hinges. He blocked it with a table.

Then came another blast, and gunfire rang out throughout the night. He did not want to be identified, for fear of being tracked down.

Rakesh Patel, a British businessman who escaped the Taj, told a television station that two young men armed with a rifle and a machine gun took 15 hostages, forcing them to the roof.

The gunmen, dressed in jeans and T-shirts, “were saying they wanted anyone with British or American passports,” Mr. Patel said.

He and four others managed to slip away in the confusion and smoke of the upper floors, he said. He said he did not know the fate of the remaining hostages.

Clarence Rich Diffenderffer, of Wilmington, Del., said after dinner at the hotel he headed to the business center on the fifth floor.

“A man in a hood with an AK-47 came running down the hall,” shooting and throwing four grenades, Mr. Diffenderffer said. “I, needless to say, beat it back to my room and locked it, and double-locked it, and put the bureau up against the door.”

Mr. Diffenderffer said he was rescued hours later, at 6:30 a.m., by a cherrypicker.

Among those apparently trapped at the Oberoi were executives and board members of Hindustan Unilever, part of the multinational corporate giant, The Times of India reported.

Indian military forces arrived outside the Oberoi at 2 a.m., and some 100 officers from the central government’s Rapid Action Force, an elite police unit, entered later.

CNN-IBN reported the sounds of gunfire from the hotel just after the police contingent went in.

The Bush administration condemned the attacks, as did President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team. The White House said it was still “assessing the hostage situation.”

Reporting was contributed by Michael Rubenstein and Prashanth Vishwanathan from Mumbai; Jeremy Kahn and Hari Kumar from New Delhi; Souad Mekhennet from Frankfurt, Germany; Sharon Otterman and Michael Moss from New York; and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.

AFP : Special forces launch assault on Mumbai hostage-takers

Friday, November 28, 2008

Special forces launch assault on Mumbai hostage-takers

November 28, 2008

MUMBAI (AFP) — Special forces stormed a Mumbai Jewish centre and battled to free guests trapped at two luxury hotels Friday, as India reeled from an audacious Islamic militant attack that left 130 people dead.

More than 36 hours after the brazen assault, security forces were carrying out what they called "mopping up" operations at the two hotels. It was not known how many people were trapped at the three locations.

At least 17 black-clad commandos were seen abseiling from a helicopter into the Jewish centre, one of around a dozen sites attacked by gunmen on Wednesday night in an assault aimed at gaining maximum media attention.

Israeli forces were believed to be involved in the rescue attempt at the Jewish centre. "The Israelis are the ones who are running the show," one diplomatic source told AFP.

Witnesses gave dramatic descriptions of young gunmen wearing jeans and T-shirts firing indiscriminately, of panicked guests seeking refuge wherever they could, and of scattered body parts and pools of blood.

An Australian man who survived the attack at the Taj Mahal hotel and was rescued by soldiers, Paul Guest, told Australian radio there were scenes of unimaginable carnage.

"There was blood all over the floor and bits of bodies," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the militants were from a group based overseas, while the military official leading the rescue, Major General R.K. Hooda, blamed arch-rival Pakistan.

Local reports said a Pakistani militant who was among three gunmen detained had told investigators that 12 attackers were dropped at sea and had reached Mumbai by speedboat.

At least five gunmen had been shot dead, police said. Fourteen security personnel were also killed, including the head of Mumbai's anti-terror squad.

Home ministry sources said two Pakistani ships had been detained off the Indian coast, but the government in Islamabad denied any involvement in the coordinated attacks, which were claimed by a previously unknown group.

The storming of the Mumbai office-residential complex containing a Jewish centre came shortly after dawn Friday, nearly 36 hours after the attacks began.

Elsewhere in the city, officials said they had almost cleared the Taj Mahal hotel, although one wounded gunman was still believed to be in the building. It was not clear how many of the hotel's 565 rooms had been cleared.

At the Oberoi/Trident hotel, 30 people, many of them foreigners, emerged early Friday, with one man cradling a young baby in his arms.

"Mopping up" operations were under way, police said, but at least one gunman with two possible hostages was holding off security forces in the hotel, a senior army officer said.

"I think we should be able to mop up the operation very quickly," National Security Guards director general J.K. Dutt said.

Scores of guests had been trapped in their rooms, too terrified to move. Some gave hair-raising accounts of the dramatic scenes inside.

"We've been waiting for hours and hours for the army to come and say we can go downstairs," one Western woman told AFP by mobile phone late Thursday from inside the Oberoi/Trident.

"We have to keep silent. They could be looking for hostages," she said.

A South African security guard, Faisul Nagel, said his team had evacuated about 120 guests from the Taj Mahal after using tables and refrigerators to barricade themselves into the kitchen and a conference room.

"We armed ourselves with kitchen knives and meat cleavers," he said.

A British-Cypriot tycoon who was killed had earlier given an interview to the BBC describing the scene inside the Taj Mahal, where he estimated 1,000 people were packed into one function room.

"We hid ourselves under the table and then they switched all the lights off. But the machinegun kept going, and they took us into the kitchen, and from there into a basement, to come up into a salon," Andreas Liveras said.

"Every time you hear something, everybody jumps. Everybody is just living on their nerves."

Indian media reports said up to nine foreign nationals were among the dead. A Japanese businessman, two Australians, a Briton, a German and an Italian have been confirmed killed.

The Israeli embassy said around 10-20 Israeli nationals were among those held hostage or trapped.

Guests who escaped recounted how the gunmen had methodically tried to round up US and British citizens.

"They said they wanted anyone with British and American passports," said one Briton, Rakesh Patel.

In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Singh said the attacks were "well-planned and well-orchestrated" and warned neighbours that provided a haven to anti-India militants would have "a cost" to pay.

The aim had been to spread panic by choosing high-profile targets and "indiscriminately killing foreigners," Singh said.

A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahedeen claimed responsibility, with one gunman telling an Indian TV channel that the outfit was of Indian origin and motivated by the treatment of Indian Muslims.

But the PTI news agency said Indian officials were pointing the finger at the Pakistan-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba -- notorious for a deadly assault on the Indian parliament in 2001 that almost pushed India and Pakistan to war.

Mumbai police chief Hassan Gafoor said more than 130 people had died, but warned that the toll could rise.

Up to 327 people were reported wounded, police said.

The main Bombay Stock Exchange opened 1.4 percent lower, reopening after trading was suspended on Thursday, while some shops, schools and businesses remained closed.

England's cricketers abandoned their ongoing one-day series against India and opted to fly home.

Al Jazeera : Indian troops storm 'last hold-out'

Friday, November 28, 2008

Indian troops storm 'last hold-out'

November 28, 2008

Indian forces have stormed a Jewish centre that appears to be the last hold-out of attackers who had carried out a series of co-ordinated assaults in Mumbai, India's financial capital, leaving up to 120 people dead.

Troops were seen on television rappelling down from a helicopter into the headquarters of Orthodox Jewish group Chabad Lubavitch early on Friday after attackers had taken the building more than 24 hours earlier.

Hostages had earlier been freed from the building but attackers were believed to be still holed up inside.

The operation came after troops wrested control of the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai from armed attackers.

Hotel officials told Al Jazeera that all the guests were safe and the hotel had been secured.

Al Jazeera's Riz Khan, reporting from outside the Oberoi where gunfire had been heard throughout Thursday, said things were quiet just before dawn on Friday.

Commandos were combing through the Oberoi and the Taj Mahal, another luxury hotel and famous city landmark, for survivors and possible remaining attackers more than 24 hours after a string of well-organised strikes in the city left more than 120 people dead and over 300 injured.

'External linkages'

Meanwhile, The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, citing unidentified police investigators, reported on Friday that three alleged attackers had confessed to being members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group which aims to end Indian rule in Kashmir.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which means army of God, had earlier denied any role in the attacks.
The newspaper said interrogation of the suspects revealed that Lashkar operatives had left Karachi in Pakistan in a merchant ship early on Wednesday and went ashore at Mumbai on a small boat before splitting up into teams to attack multiple locations.

Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, condemned the attacks on Thursday and blamed those "outside the country".

"It is evident that the group that carried these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country," he said.

"I strongly condemn these senseless acts of violence against innocent people, including guests from foreign countries.

"The well-planned and well-orchestrated attacks, probably with external linkages, were intended to create a sense of terror by choosing high-profile targets."

A little known group calling itself the Deccan Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for the attack in emails to news organisations.

But Mahan Abedin, an insurgency analyst, told Al Jazeera that "at this stage, that name does not necessarily mean that much".

"We have seen an increase in recent years in indigenous Indian Muslim organisations beginning to take a violent stance towards the Indian state and sections of the Indian society, particularly the commercial elite of places like Mumbai, in order to highlight, they would say, the sheer inequality of life in India.

"There is a middle class of around 100 million who live very well but 800 million-plus people live in miserable conditions," he said.

Gun battles

Gunfire and explosions were heard throughout Thursday from the Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels where scores of terrified guests had been trapped in their rooms, and security forces said they were carrying out "mop up" operations to ensure all attackers had been subdued.

At the Taj Mahal three attackers were killed in gunfights with government troops and commandos, Indian officials said.

"We are fully in control of the situation. I am fully confident we will achieve our objectives," JK Dutt, the director of India's National Security Guards, said.

An estimated 100 armed men launched what India police called "terrorist attacks" on 10 locations in India's financial centre.

The attackers fired indiscriminately and threw grenades, hitting the historic Chhatrapati Shivaji train station, the Leopold Cafe popular with tourists and the police headquarters in southern Mumbai.

Several attackers were killed and at least nine others arrested, police said.

At least 11 policemen, including three senior officers, were killed in the attacks, among them Hemant Karkare, the chief of the city's anti-terrorism squad.

At least nine foreigners were also among the dead, police said, but most of those killed and injured were locals.

Witnesses at the hotels that were targeted said the attackers had singled out British and American citizens.

"They kept shouting: 'Who has US or UK passports?'" Ashok Patel, a British citizen who fled from the Taj Mahal hotel, said.

Several European legislators, visiting Mumbai ahead of a European Union-India summit, were among those inside the Taj when it was besieged.


Witness accounts

"They told everybody to stop and put their hands up and asked if there were any British or Americans … My friend said to me, 'don't be a hero, don't say you are British.'"

- Alex Chamberlain, British guest at the Oberoi Trident who fled via a fire escape

"That was, without doubt, the worst experience of my entire life … We could hear the army coming through the hotel ... The firemen broke the windows of the room and we climbed down the ladder."

- Female guest, Taj Mahal hotel

"They wore black T-shirts and blue jeans. They were carrying big guns … They just fired randomly at people and then ran away. In seconds, people fell to the ground."

- Nasim Inam, at Chhatrapati Shivaji railway terminus

"As I stepped inside the lobby gunshots started to go off ... There were people getting shot in the corridor. There was someone dead outside the bathroom."

- Brooke Satchwell, an Australian television actress, who hid in a cupboard in the Taj Mahal hotel

Al Jazeera : Troops storm Mumbai Jewish centre

Friday, November 28, 2008

Troops storm Mumbai Jewish centre

November 28, 2008

Security forces in the Indian city of Mumbai have stormed a Jewish centre in an attempt to flush out attackers who had taken part in deadly co-ordinated attacks across the city.

The security operation at the headquarters of Chabad Lubavitch comes after at least 130 people were killed in a series of assaults across Mumbai, India's financial capital.

Early on Friday, Indian television showed troops descending from a helicopter into Nariman House, which houses Chabad Lubavitch's headquarters.

The attackers had holed themselves up inside the building more than 24 hours earlier.

Snipers stationed in buildings opposite the centre began the security operation against the attackers.

Nearby troops provided covering gunfire as at least nine commandos lowered themselves by rope onto the roof of Nariman House from an Indian air force helicopter.

It was not immediately clear if there were hostages in the building or their fate.

Two workers and a child escaped from the building on Thursday, the only people to emerge so far.

The child was identified as Moshe Holtzberg, two, the son of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, the main representative at Chabad house.

Still holed up

Elsewhere in Mumbai, commandos searched two luxury hotels which police said fighters were still occupying along with an unknown number of hostages.

Sporadic gunfire and explosions at the Taj Mahal Palace and the Trident-Oberoi hotels dwindled overnight, indicating the sieges there might be winding down.

Army Commander Lieutenant-General N Thamburaj said on Friday that at least one attacker may still be holding two hostages in the Taj Mahal hotel.

He said almost all guests and staff had been evacuated from the Taj and that the security operation would be wrapped up there in a few hours.

Ratan Tata, who runs the company that owns the Taj Mahal hotel, said the attackers had detailed knowledge of the layout of the buildings.

The strikes by small bands of armed men starting on Wednesday night shocked Mumbai, the nerve-centre of India's growing economic might and home to the Bollywood film industry.

At least eight foreigners, including an Australian, a Briton, an Italian and a Japanese national, have been killed.

Seven attackers have been killed and nine suspects taken into custody, police have said.

Twelve policemen, including the head of Mumbai's counter-terrorism force, have also been killed, police say.

Little activity

Al Jazeera's Riz Khan, reporting from outside the Trident-Oberoi, where gunfire had been heard throughout Thursday, said things were quiet just before dawn on Friday.

Dozens of people, including foreigners, were evacuated from the Trident-Oberoi Hotel.

Sohail Rahman, reporting for Al Jazeera from outside the hotel, said there has been "very little activity from the security personnel as far as we know".

"About two hours ago there was a sound of a very large thud and people wondered whether there was some sort of military operation ongoing; whether they [security forces] were going to take the hotel," he said.

"It's been very unclear what stage the security personnel have been able to sweep the hotel.

"They started over 12 hours ago on Thursday combing room by room, floor by floor, trying to secure the building before they can catch the attackers still holding those hostages."

Our correspondent said Indian government officials have been "very tight-lipped about the progress of the special forces at the locations where these attacks have happened".

"They are only giving out information as and when they can confirm it. They are making sure that they have a very tight lid on the information that is filtered out to the media," he said.

"So it is very difficut to asses exactly at what stage any of these forces or government officials are at in terms of planning in retaking buildings."

A US investigative team is heading to Mumbai, a state department official said on Thursday evening.

Media speculation

Meanwhile, the Indian media, citing unidentified police investigators, reported on Friday that three alleged attackers had confessed to being members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group which aims to end Indian rule in Kashmir.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which means army of God, had earlier denied any role in the attacks.

The Hindu newspaper said interrogation of the suspects revealed that Lashkar operatives had left Karachi in Pakistan in a merchant ship early on Wednesday and went ashore at Mumbai on a small boat before splitting up into teams to attack multiple locations.

Earlier, a little known group calling itself the Deccan Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for the attack in emails to news organisations.

Dipankar Banerjee, a retired Indian general, told Al Jazeera that said he does not rule out the possibility that the Indian Mujahedeen, blamed for previous attacks, were responsible for the Mumbai assaults.

In a speech on Thursday, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, blamed "external forces", a phrase sometimes used to refer to Pakistan-based fighters.

Pakistan, for its part, has condemned the attacks and promised to provide Delhi with full co-operation in an investigation.

Mahan Abedin, an insurgency analyst, told Al Jazeera: "We have seen an increase in recent years in indigenous Indian Muslim organisations beginning to take a violent stance towards the Indian state and sections of the Indian society, particularly the commercial elite of places like Mumbai, in order to highlight, they would say, the sheer inequality of life in India.

"There is a middle class of around 100 million who live very well but 800 million-plus people live in miserable conditions."