Saturday, February 14, 2009

MUMBAI 26/11/2008 & KABUL 11/2/2009----COMMON COMMAND & CONTROL?



A new breed of jihadi suicide terrorists--- better trained, better motivated and more adept at taking the security agencies by surprise---- hascome out of the terrorist training schools in Pakistani territory. They may belong to different jihadi organisations, but they seem to havebeen trained in the use of the same modus operandi (MO). Were they also trained by the same instructors?

2. These are the preliminary conclusions emerging from a study of daring terrorist strikes by three groups of suicide terrorists wieldinghand-held weapons on government buildings in Kabul on February 11,2009. The responsibility for the multiple attacks has already beenclaimed by the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan headed by Mulla Mohammad Omar. The MO used by the terrorists of the Neo Taliban, eight innumber, closely resembled the MO used by the 10 terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) who attacked Mumbai from November 26 to29,2008.

3. There were differences in three material particulars. Firstly, the LET terrorists infiltrated by sea intro Mumbai by taking advantage of thelax physical security of the Mumbai Police, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. The Neo Taliban terrorists infiltrated and attacked despiteheightened security arrangements put in place in Kabul by the US and Afghan intelligence services and security forces in connection withthe visit of Richard Holbrooke, the US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan. These heightened security preparations couldnot detect the infiltration and prevent the multriple attacks. Second, whereas the LET terrorists killed innocent civilians in public places aswell as inside two prestigious hotels and a Jewish centre, the Neo Taliban terrorists did not attack innocent civilians in public places.Thirdly, whereas the LET attacked lightly-protected private establishments, the Neo Taliban managed to successfully infiltrate and attacktightly-guarded Government establishments.

4. The similarities related to well-orchestrated multiple attacks, using hand-held weapons instead of explosives, and forcing their way intobuildings by opening fire from hand-held weapons and taking possession of them for a while. Whereas the LET terrorists in Mumbai heldpossession of the buildings occupied by them for nearly 60 hours, the Neo Taliban terrorists in Kabul could keep possession of the buildingsoccupied by them for some hours only. This was because these Government buildings had well-trained armed guards of the Afghansecurity forces, who went into action against the terrorists after recovering from their initial surprise and shock. Another similaity was theNeo Taliban terrorists remaining in contact through mobile telephones with their handlers in Pakistan during the operation withoutworrying about the breach of security and deniability of their coming from Pakistan. This resembled the similar contacts of the LETterrorists in Mumbai with their handlers in Pakistan during the operation.

5. According to the details of the multiple attacks available from Afghan sources and the claims of the Neo Taliban, the Neo Taliban usedeight suicide attackers divided into three groups for the operation. A group of five managed to gain entry into the office of the Ministry ofJustice. A second group of two managed to gain entry into the office of the Directorate of Prisons. The ninth terrorist, operating alone, hadbeen given the task of forcibly entering the office of the Ministry of Education. He could not succeed and was shot dead by the securityguards posted outside. A total of at least 26 persons, including the terrorists, died in the three terrorist attacks.

6. The "Dawn" of Karachi of February 12,2009, gave the following details of the attacks: " Witnesses of the attack on the Justice Ministrysaid several gunmen burst into the building and opened fire on security guards. Some managed to run up a few flights of stairs in thebuilding, shooting as they went, they said. At least 10 Ministry employees and three security officers were killed, Interior MinisterMohammad Hanif Atmar told reporters. One of the attackers took two Justice Ministry officials hostage before killing them, intelligence chiefAmrullah Saleh said. The five attackers gunned down at the Ministry were aged between 20 to 25, Saleh said, praising the security forcesfor thwarting an attack that may have lasted “several hours, several days.” Mobile phones found at the scene showed the attackers had“sent three messages to Pakistan calling for the blessings of their mastermind” as they entered the building, Saleh said. Witnesses saidterrified Justice Ministry employees jumped from the windows of the four-storey building, while others locked themselves in their offices asheavy exchanges of gunfire continued for several hours.A minute earlier, two suicide attackers struck the prisons directorate in the north ofthe city.Atmar said six policemen were killed at the site and nearly 30 wounded."

7. Even though the Neo Taliban had carried out more than 200 suicide attacks in Afghanistan during 2007 anf 2008 combined, their attacksoften failed to kill the targets. Instead, they killed innocent civilians through premature activation of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs)carried by them. This was attributed by American experts to their poor training. In contrast to the past incidents, the terrorists whoparticipated in the attacks of February 11,2009, were as well trained as the LET attackers in Mumbai and relied almost exclusively onhand-held weapons in a commando-style operation. They did carry IEDs, but activated them only to kill themselves in order to prevent theirfalling into the hands of the security forces.

8.In a despatch dated February 13,2009, Bronwen Roberts of the Agence France Press (AFP) has reported as follows: " “There is a strong similarity between what happened in Mumbai and in Kabul,” said Haroun Mir, analyst and co-founder of Afghanistan'sCentre for Research and Policy Studies.Five gunmen who stormed the justice building – opening fire as they ran through corridors, kickingdown doors to shoot people inside – appeared young, urban and well-trained as were the Mumbai attackers, he and witnesses said. Just minutes before, three suicide bombers blew themselves up at the prisons directorate and the education ministry – another similaritywith the November attacks on three locations in India. The justice ministry gunmen did not intend to merely blow themselves up in a typicalTaliban tactic, Mir said. “These are people who wanted to take control and try to kill as many people as they could,” he said. They were armed with rifles and other weapons, which showed they probably intended to take hostages and drag the drama out, he said. Intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh also told reporters Wednesday that the gunmen, aged between 20 and 25, were intent on “mass killing”and creating a drama that could have lasted for days. Investigations would pursue messages to Pakistan found on their mobile phones atthe scene “calling for the blessings of their mastermind”, Saleh said. Mir said Wednesday's bloodshed and a series of similarly“well-prepared and executed attacks” last year “show that those who are committing these kind of attacks are graduates of the sameschool somewhere in Pakistan.” “They are not ordinary Taliban – regular Taliban suicide bombers are most of the time not too effective,” hesaid. “These young boys are well-trained and indoctrinated,” he said. It also showed that despite US pressure on militant training camps inPakistan “the schools are still operational and training for terrorist attacks in India, Afghanistan and elsewhere,” he said. Afghan DefenceMinistry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said--- "With the Justice Ministry so close to the presidential palace if they could haveextended this for a day or two like in Mumbai this would have been a marvellous media sweep for them.”

9. Ajmal Amir Kasab, the LET terrorist captured in Mumbai, is reported to have told the police during the interrogation that the 10 whoinfiltrated into Mumbai and attacked were part of a group of 32 trained by the LET in a camp in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). If true,this would show that another 22 terrorists trained in the new commando-style MO used in Mumbai and Kabul are available for the LET foruse against Indian and foreign targets in Indian territory.

10. Were the LET terrorists who attacked in Mumbai and the Neo Taliban terrorists, who attacked in Kabul, having a common command andcontrol? Is Abu Mustafa Al-Yazid, of Al Qaeda, who is reportedly responsible for its operations in Afghanistan and for co-ordination with theNeo Taliban and who recently threatened more Mumbai-style attacks in India, the common command and control? These questions needcareful examination.(15-2-09)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )