Mumbai-like Attack a Possibility in U.S. City, Officials Testify

By Matthew Harwood

The commando-style attack by terrorists over a four-day period in Mumbai that killed approximately 170 people could be the template for a similar assault on an American city or shopping center, intelligence and law enforcement officials testified yesterday before a Senate hearing.

Donald Van Duyn, the FBI's chief intelligence officer, told lawmakers that the Mumbai attack offers an effective model for causing bloodshed and chaos that could be copied by others, according to the Associated Press.

"I think we can expect that groups will look to that as a model for themselves," he said. "We sometimes focus on tactics that may be exotic and esoteric ... but for most terrorists, they're looking for what works."

The attacks were the work of ten gunmen allegedly trained and supplid by the Pakistan-based terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba.

In his prepared remarks, New York Police Department Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly described the low-tech, but highly trained, aspects of the attack that differ from previous terrorist attacks:

They carried AK-56 assault rifles, a Chinese manufactured copy of the Russian AK-47. It holds a 30-round magazine with a firing rate of 600 to 650 rounds per minute. In addition,the terrorists each carried a duffel bag loaded with extra ammunition, an average of 300 to 400 rounds contained in as many as 12 magazines, along with half a dozen grenades, and one plastic explosive, or i.e.d. The attackers displayed a sophisticated level of training, coordination, and stamina .... This group had extensive practice. And the number of casualties shows it. Ten terrorists managed to kill or injure over 500 people. They were experienced in working together as a unit. For example, they used hand signals to communicate across loud and crowded spaces. And they were sufficiently disciplined to continue their attack over many hours. This had the effect of increasing the public’s fear and keeping the incident in the news cycle for a longer period of time. These are a few of the differences from what we’ve seen before.

Charles Allen, the top intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security, told lawmakers that a Mumbai-like attack in its "sheer brutality ... is the kind of thing that can be conducted against soft targets around the world."

Malls, according to Van Duyn, should have proper and up-to-date evacuation plans.

When asked by Congressional Quarterly (subscription only) if attacks like Mumbai could happen in the United States, Kenneth L. Wainstein, the president's homeland security adviser, said emphatically yes.

"That was a relatively low-tech operation,” he said. “They walked into a city, an open city, like every city in the United States with  . . .  satchels with [assault rifles] and hand grenades .... And, they went in and they methodically killed everybody they saw. And, you can envision that happening in any American city. And it’s chilling when you think about it.”


View Recent News (by day)


Beyond Print

SM Online

See all the latest links and resources that supplement the current issue of Security Management magazine.