A Tactical Analysis of the 2008 Terror Attack on Mumbai!

A terrifying chronology of one of the deadliest terror attacks in modern history!

166 people killed. A helpless police force. A  megacity in terror!

Read our tactical analysis on how a few terrorist were able to defeat India’s police forces for days and turn the streets of Mumbai into a bloodshed!

Mumbai 2008: The one alarming question written in blood!

In 2008 10 relatively lightly armed gunmen from Pakistan managed to infiltrate and go on a coordinated killing spree in India’s largest city for four days, killing 166 people before they were stopped.

How was this possible?

(c) Government of India 

The Beginning

Lashkar-E-Taiba (The Army of the Righteous), has more than 2000 offices all over Pakistan for the recruitment of men and women who are willing to die for the apparent liberation of the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Lashkar-E-Taiba (LeT), give their recruits three months’ training and indoctrination in groups of around 24 to 26. It is out of this pool that 10 young indoctrinated men were selected to die as martyrs killing innocent men, women and even children in Mumbai.

On the evening of 21 November 2008 these 10 terrorists boarded a boat and travelled for 38 hours undetected by the Indian Navy.

The next day they were each given six to seven fully loaded AK-47 magazines, 400 extra rounds, eight hand grenades, credit cards and cash and enough dried fruit and nuts to last a few days.

They hijacked an Indian trawler the Kuber and killed four of the crew, leaving only the captain alive. Four nautical miles from the Indian shoreline they slit the captain’s throat and proceeded to land in three inflatable dinghies.

When they came ashore in the fisherman’s slum of Colaba and were asked by local fishermen where they were from the gunmen told the fishermen to mind their own business.

The fishermen reported the men to the police who did not do enough to prevent what eventually happened that night.

The gunmen split up and each grouping of two headed towards their intended targets.

Ajmal Kasab, the only gunman who would later be captured alive told investigators that plans for this attack had been finalised a month earlier already.

This was a suicide mission, seeking the ultimate goal for a Jihadist, heavenly bliss.

The Mumbai Terror 2008: The Attacks

Two of the terrorists took a taxi to the famous Leopold Café where witnesses would later testify the men looked very happy and were talking on a cell phone for a long time.

When they hung up they embraced and one of them unceremoniously lobbed a Norinco Type 86 grenade in among the patrons and after the detonation both men took out their AK-47’s and began gunning down people indiscriminately.

They emptied their magazines into the people there, reloaded and by the time they left 11 people lay dead and 28 had been wounded.

At almost the same time two of them entered the Taj Hotel, Mumbai’s most exclusive hotel and two took a taxi to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the busiest train station in the city.

Later two of the men in the Taj would launch the attack on the Oberoi Trident Hotel, a block away.

Two more would enter and attack a Jewish Study Centre called Nariman House.

(c) Government of India

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Massacre

At the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus the gunmen threw grenades and fired indiscriminately in a very calm manner into the thronging mass of people.

They went back among the bloody bodies and killed those who still showed signs of life.

They eventually killed 52 and wounded 109 people.

The death toll could have been higher had a railway announcer Vishnu Dattaram Zende, not warned people to leave the station.

He probably saved many lives.

(c) Government of India

During this attack the police stood and watched for fifteen minutes as people were gunned down before most of them fled.

A few police stayed behind and tried to attack the murderers with their outdated World War Two era bolt action rifles and pistols, but most of them were gunned down.

One policeman even frustratingly threw a plastic chair at the attackers when his bolt action rifle jammed.

One of the policemen who chose to stay and fight later said that they could not get their brains to work.

The moment was too overwhelming and out of their normal scope of duty.

This policeman said he had to concentrate on three words to get through the ordeal “aim, shoot, kill”.

(c) Government of India

The Attacks on Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel

At approximately 23:00 two terrorists entered the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel.

They started shooting guests and employees in the lobby and a few minutes later are joined by two more terrorists who almost get shot by the first pair.

The four now went looking for more targets in the restaurants where they shot and killed scores more people. Most guests locked themselves in their rooms.

At about 04:00 the fire brigade rescued many people from their room windows with ladders.

The Taj was burning on the fourth floor as the gunmen were instructed by their controller.

The phone conversations were now being monitored by the Indian Government.

The controller known only as Brother Wasi (still unknown) told the gunmen to throw grenades and kill more people.

Fortunately they could not get to the other guests because they were locked away and hiding.

The Mumbai Police Commissioner did not take command of the situation in the control room and left it to the city’s most decorated detective instead, who is more used to dealing with the aftermath of criminal events.

The police were under the impression that the whole city was under attack by at least 50 gunmen.

(c) Government of India

Oberoi Trident Hotel, Nariman House and the Hospital

The same type of carnish was at play at the Oberoi Trident Hotel where two gunmen blasted through the front door.

Again many people were gunned down on sight.

The two gunmen who attacked the train station now reached Cama Women’s and Children’s Hospital to kill more people, but staff and patients had locked themselves inside the wards and nobody was killed.

These two gunmen are later caught at a police roadblock where one is killed and the other, Ajmal Kasab, is arrested and for the first time the police know their enemy is eight more gunmen from LeT.

Two gunmen also entered Nariman House after navigating the side streets of Mumbai to get their most prized targets, Jews.

Brother Wasi could be heard on the phone telling them that one Jew was worth the lives of 50 other people.

The Rabbi and his pregnant wife were shot dead after each shouting “shoot me” when the armed gunmen entered their residence.

They also shot two house guests and held two women hostage.

The Mumbai Attacks: Now India Fights Back

The Indian National Security Guards (NSG) played the largest part in ending all hostilities.

The following evening, 27 November at about 19:20 NSG members entered the Taj. They received good intelligence from some police members who snuck in and monitored the terrorists on the hotel CCTV cameras earlier.

An initial report that all terrorists were dead by 04:20 was revised as they realised one gunman was still unaccounted for.

He was hunted and killed while on the phone with his controller.

Only by 08:00 on the 29th of November was the Taj under government control.

At 13:30 on the 27th two explosions were heard before NSG guards entered the Oberoi.

At the hotel in question Indian Sikh soldiers were involved in fierce fighting with the gunmen after arriving on the scene at about 17:35, while the NSG were hunting the terrorists on the inside.

By 15:00 on the 28th the hotel was secured with 31 Indian Military personnel injured, including two NSG members.

By approximately 11:00 on the 27th at Nariman House there was cross fire between police and the gunmen and one gunman was injured.

The two female hostages were unfortunately all killed hours before the NSG fast roped onto the roof by 07:30 on 28 November.

The attack by the NSG followed fly overs by a navy helicopter to gather intelligence on the objective.

By 20:30 the gunmen were declared dead.

(c) Government of India, Wikimedia

A Tactical Analysis of the Mumbai Attacks

I conduct this analysis using the OODA Loop, which is the basic military cycle for the winning of a battle.

Observation, Orientation, Decision and Action.

From the get go the Indian authorities were on the back foot because of the small size of the attack force as well as the ferocity in which they struck various targets almost simultaneously.

Surprise was on the side of the attackers and as any soldier would tell you, surprise if probably the most important principle of warfare.

Tactical Analysis Stage One: Observation

Observation in the matter of the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attack implies that the various Indian intelligence services and the police network should have seen the terrorists coming.

After many years of hostilities, an oiled intelligence machine and the clear and present danger that LeT posed, one would think that the attackers would have been seen coming.

For some reason, they slipped through the fingers of the Indian Navy undetected.

One would also assume that the Indian Navy would be on high alert for any Pakistani vessels since the countries are enemies.

How did this vessel get through?

The situation is worsened by the fact that earlier in the year the Indian Intelligence services managed to slip 35 sim cards into LeT.

Three of them were switched on some time on the night of the attacks, but before the attacks started.

These were not picked up until after the attacks had started.

The Mumbai Police had a tougher task as the city in question has a population in excess of 18 million.

No matter how good their network was, they could not have picked up the attackers in time.

More alarm bells should however have been raised after ten suspicious unknown men landed on Indian soil.

Although the landing was reported the police did not act in time.

Although the Indian Authorities were probably partly to blame for not picking up on a mission of this scale, it must also be said that the enemy had planned this well.

They had the element of surprise, they were better trained than the Mumbai Police and had better weapons.

Once the enemy landed on Indian soil they had the initiative.

They should have been stopped at sea.

(c) Government of India

Tactical Analysis Stage Two: Orientation

Once the attacks started somebody had to coordinate and take charge.

The Mumbai Police Commissioner clearly neglected his duty and was later removed from his post and placed in charge of Police Housing after this debacle.

The detective left in charge did not have the training for this kind of thing.

Coordination was further hampered by an inadequately trained police force with horribly outdated weapons who could simply not operate in these types of high stress operations.

Even when they attempted to act, like at the train station they lost the firefight and their lives.

In the end the military simply had to take over as all police actions were disjointed.

Only when the military took over with their better coordination and with the benefit of more accurate information did the reply to the situation resemble an orientated response.

It must also be pointed out that in India the military have a better reputation than the police, and there is probably a good reason for that.

Since the attackers carried out the attack in military style and had military training, the best force to counteract their efforts had to be a military or paramilitary force, which begs the question, why did the police anti-terrorism unit in Mumbai not act? Politics?

In general the police forces of most countries are not known for their operational planning, which would be critical in resolving the situation effectively.

With the Mumbai Police the situation was probably much worse.

Coordination only became effective as the situation dragged on, the intelligence picture became more complete and a well-trained force like the military took over.

The police were simply not trained or equipped for this.

(c) Government of India

Tactical Analysis Stage Three: Decision

Once the plan is made according to the best possible orientation by the commander the decision must still be made to determine which unit would attack the terrorists’ positions and which of the plans would be utilised.

All this would have to happen with extreme political pressure, especially since some important people were staying at hotels like the Taj.

The police could not make the decision because of all the reasons mentioned here and since they did not have the stomach for that type of fight.

Remember that at the Oberoi 31 soldiers were injured, soldiers who had better training than the police.

The decisions that had to be made required a good commander and that could have been the police detective who first took charge, but with the other parts missing, ie. effective observation and orientation he did not have much of a chance to make a good decision.

However, if he had made more decisive decisions when he realised automatic weapons and grenades were being used, he could have saved more lives and inspired the rest of the police force.

Tactical Analysis Stage Four: Action

Once the decision is made the plan, which was paramilitary in nature had to be carried out by trained personnel who could also react to the way the enemy engaged them and hold their nerve.

The police were probably not capable of doing that.

The only way the police could have acted effectively against the attackers was if they massively outnumbered them as a coherent force or if the attackers were severely lacking in training.

None of these are applicable to this situation.

(c) Government of India

Tactical Analysis of the Mubai Attacks: Conclusion

The 2008 Mumbai Terror Attack could possibly have been prevented with more engaged intelligence services and a tighter navy dragnet to filter Pakistani vessels.

The Mumbai Police Force was never geared to fight a possible terror attack in their city.

This was not the first terror attack on Mumbai, but previous attacks were bombings, which required no coordinated paramilitary fighting.

One can only hope that the police force will be better trained and equipped after this incident.

These days attacks like these are even more likely so changes are necessary.

Article written by Maj W.G. Klokow, SAIC

 


Read more here…

Telegraph: The Making of a Terrorist


 

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