Indian Security Criticized After Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

By Matthew Harwood

India's top security official resigned yesterday after last week's Mumbai massacre, as criticism mounts that the government has not done enough to prepare for and prevent terrorism attacks against India.

Home Affairs Minister Shivraj Patil stepped down, according to Germany's Der Spiegel, as Mumbai residents took to the streets in protest against a government it feels cannot protect them. In the attacks against Mumbai, formerly Bombay, that stretched from Wednesday night to Saturday, approximately 10 terrorists armed with assault rifles and grenades caused unbelievable carnage: 174 murdered and at least 239 wounded, according to the Associated Press. Among the dead lay Westerners and 17 law enforcement officers, chief among them Hemant Karkare, head of Maharashtra state's Anti-Terrorism Squad.

A previously unknown group, Deccan Mujahedeen, claimed responsibility for the attacks, although many speculate that it may have links to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani-based jihadist organization with alleged ties to al Qaeda and the country's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

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International and native media outlets have begun to piece together how 10 terrorists (estimates vary)—relying on guns and grenades, rather than spectacular suicide attacks— could produce such a massacre.

The answer, it seems, is that Mumbai's security forces were woefully unprepared to handle the threat. Mumbai's police force rarely carries more than a baton. Law enforcement agencies do not share information inefficiently.

"[T]here is an urgent need for better coordination among various intelligence agencies and with the armed forces," argued an editorial from The Times of India. "This, however, is possible only if we have a major revamp of our security architecture."

Indian commandoes did not possess the high-power rifle scopes to distinguish predator from prey, or the technology to determine where gunfire was coming from, according to The New York Times. One commando told the Times that he and his partner did not take one shot during more than 60 hours they "perched outside the Taj Hotel" because "they were not sure how to distinguish the gunmen from ordinary civilians trapped inside the hotel." Moreover, Mumbai did not have the commando units necessary to handle a terrorist siege, they had to be flown in from New Delhi, the capital city.

Also, according to the Times, a report prepared for Parliament in 2007 identified that India's shores could be used to launch terrorist assaults on the country—precisely how at least some of the terrorists infiltrated the city.

"Clearly, our long coastline dotted with ports, oil rigs and tourist resorts is a porous border," said The Times of India. "The Coast Guard, the primary agency responsible for guarding the coastline, doesn't have the personnel or infrastructure to do its job. No border of this nation is secure, especially when there are numerous failed or failing states surrounding the country."

As insecurity after insecurity piles up, the Indian media has launched blistering attacks against the government, according to the BBC, which compiled select criticisms from India's many English-language dailies. 

In other news related to the Mumbai terrorist attacks, The New York Times explores the difficulties of securing hotels from terrorist attacks after the assaults on Mumbai's Oberoi and Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotels and the suicide bombing of the Marriott in Islamabad, Pakistan, a little more than two months ago.

Lastly, James Carafano, of the Heritage Foundation, wonders whether armed assaults like that on Mumbai could happen in the United States and provides do's and don'ts to prevent Mumbai-like attacks on American soil.

"It is unrealistic to believe that all homeland security efforts will deny every attack every time," writes Carafano. "In particular, armed assaults and vehicle-borne explosive attacks are tactics that are not beyond the reach of any modestly funded and committed terrorist group".


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