26/11 reconstructed: 60 horrific hours that India can never forget

India and the world is observing the 11th anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The horrific and ghastly terror strikes were carried out by Pakistani state sponsored and supported terrorists on November 26th, 2008. Ten terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-E-Toiba outfit, stormed Mumbai and killed almost 166 innocent people. The forces were successful in killing nine out of the ten terrorists who were involved in this act. One of them, Ajmal Kasab, was captured alive.

Let us look at the incident and facts associated with it.

The Attacks

On November 26th, 2008; ten terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-E-Toiba, who had infiltrated into India through the western coast of India, reached Mumbai (Badhwar park, Cuffe Parade area) at around 20:30 hours. The hours after that resulted in complete mayhem as the city was attacked by these ten terrorists, who let themselves loose on a city that was happy in its pace.

These ten terrorists attacked:

1. The Taj Mahal Palace in Colaba,

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The Taj Hotel in Mumbai. One of the targets

2. The Trident Hotel in Nariman Point

The Trident hotel at Nariman Point in Mumbai.

3. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway station (CST)

CST Station, Mumbai

4. The Leopold Café in Colaba (Bhagat Singh road- Colaba causeway)

Leopold Cafe

5. The Cama Hospital

The Cama Hospital

6. The Chabad House in Colaba

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Baby Moshe survived the terror attack at the Chabad house.

In addition to this, the terrorists had planted Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) in two taxis that went off at Vile Parle and Wadi Bunder areas of the city.

The ten terrorists split into a team of two and attacked one target each, except the team that attacked the Leopold Café joined the team at the Taj Mahal Palace and continued the massacre. The team that attacked CST which included the lone terrorist caught (Ajmal Amir Kasab), also carried out the massacre at the Cama Hospital and the lane outside it [in which Maharashtra ATS squad chief Hemant Karkare (IPS), Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamathe (IPS) and Inspector Vijay Salaskar were killed along with other policemen].

Eight out of the nine terrorists who had been eliminated.

With the timely intervention of various security forces, these ruthless killings finally came to an end on November 29th. The city witnessed close to three days of utter destruction and chaos. The forces which included the Mumbai Police, MARCOS (Naval commandos) and the NSG commandos amongst others, played a critical role in ending this siege. In this the nation lost:

The brave hearts who gave up their lives in Mumbai.

1. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan (NSG)

2. Havaldar Gajendra Singh (NSG)

3. Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) Tukaram Ombale (Maharashtra Police)

4. Police Inspector (PI) Shashank Shinde (Maharashtra Police)

And many more.

The conspiracy

The conspiracy had been planned months ahead of the actual attack. The Lashkar-E-Toiba along with the Pakistani armed forces, the infamous Inter Service Intelligence or ISI (also known as Khalai Maqluks) and the Pakistani government, planned and prepared for these attacks.

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Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar e Taiba founder and 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind

Lashkar-E-Toiba has two courses for its trainee terrorists. One is the Daura-e-aam (basic training) and the other is Daura-e-khas (special training). For these attacks, initially 32 members were selected for the Daura-e-aam course out of which 13 were sent for the Daura-e-khas course. After this training which included courses conducted by the SSG commandos (Special Services Group of the Pakistan Army), Pakistan Navy amongst others, six were sent to carry out attacks in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. Seven were remaining and another three individuals joined the group. These terrorists trained at Muridke, Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Ladakh amongst other places.

Zakhiur Rehman Lakhvi

The ten terrorists set out from Karachi on November 22nd carrying Kalashnikov rifles, pistols, IED, food including nuts and dry fruits, satellite phones, Indian currency and college ID cards from India amongst others. After traveling for a while, they shifted to a larger ship, the Al Husseini (registered in the name of Zakhi-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, supreme commander of the LET operations). They then hijacked MV Kuber (an Indian ship) and reached Mumbai on November 26th. They killed all members on board the MV Kuber, including the captain who guided them to Mumbai. After reaching a distance of 5 Nautical Miles from Mumbai, they abandoned the ship and travelled on a dinghy.

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26/11 mastermind David Headley

In this process, they were helped by David Headley alias Daood Gilani (Pakistani-American national) who visited Mumbai and conducted surveillance of various targets and Tahawwur Rana (a Canadian National).

Trial

The main masterminds of this dastardly attacks are Hafiz Saeed, Zakhi-Ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Abdur Rehman Makhi, Major Iqbal of the Pakistan army (a pseudonym) amongst others.

In November 2012, Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist who was captured alive, was hanged to death at the Yerawada central prison in Pune after being convicted for his crimes.

Ajmal Amir Kasab

The Pakistani authorities perfunctorily arrested the other masterminds but released them. They continue to arrest them when global pressure mounts on them. In 2015, Zakhi-Ur-Rehman Lakhvi was released from the Adela Central jail in Rawalpindi and has since disappeared, never to be seen again.

Pakistan’s kangaroo courts continue to mock the victims of these attacks and the global community refuses to take action against Pakistan and its deep state. As per various estimates, approximately 72 terror groups continue to operate out of Pakistan.

Former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, Salman Bashir even went to the extent of insulting the victims of the attack by describing the dossiers handed over to Pakistan by India as a “piece of literature”.

Measures to plug the gaps in the security architecture

The Union and state authorities have taken many measures to boost security around India’s 7200 kms of coastline and in the city of Mumbai.

Some of these measures include:

1. The Information infusion centre for the Indian Ocean Region in Gurugram tracks the vast oceans and alerts authorities of any suspicious movements in the high seas. This is an Indian initiative supported by the other members of the region and beyond.

2. Operation Sagar Kavacch- This exercise was held to increase the coordination between the Indian Navy and the Indian coastguards amongst others.

3. Better coordination between the intelligence agencies – Intelligence Bureau had issued warnings to the Mumbai police in the month of June 2008, but it wasn’t acted upon. Accountability issues have been fixed and no major terror attacks has been experienced anywhere in India since 2014.

4. Mumbai police Force One, which is a specialized counter terrorism force was launched and are competent to deal with issues related to urban terrorism. They were also deployed in the forests of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra to fight the naxals.

5. Sagar Prahari Bal, a specialized unit of the Indian Navy was launched to patrol the coastline.

6. Registration of all fishermen is now mandatory and they have been roped in to provide information of suspicious activities around the coast.

The authorities were caught off guard and weren’t clearly prepared to deal with the enormity of the attacks. This served as a wake up call for the authorities to fix such integral security issues.

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