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Mumbai - Some Thoughts on Prevention

Rather than focus on the “who” or the “why,” this is to focus on the “what.” From all appearances, the terrorist siege in Mumbai began with a brute force attack on selected targets using conventional weapons. Included in the questions being asked since the bloody siege began is what the implications might be on the United States. Could it happen here? Eerily, that is all too similar to the attack on the Israeli Olympic wrestling team at the Munich 1972 Games. Regardless, these terrorists, may have pre-scouted their targets and then hit ten separate locations; Leopold Cafe, Hotel Oberoi and Taj International, Trident hotel, Colaba Wadi, the BMC office, Cama Hospital, GT Hospital, Nariman House, Vidhan Bhavan. Yes, Americans, British, Westerners and Jewish people may have been the targets, yet most of the victims were Indians.

Another of the questions, among many others I am sure, is what if anything can actually be done to prevent such attacks? Ask, what is our insulation from this type of attack?

● Human Intelligence? It’s generally suggested at this point that Indian and other intelligence agencies “missed” the possibility of a Pakistani militant attack.

● Armed guards at major hotels and other “soft” targets? Notwithstanding the manpower requirements, of course, it is not a practical solution to place guards or metal detectors (or magnetometers) at hotel or convention center entrances.

Having said that, it is now being reported that the Taj Hotel actually had warning of the attacks , had hardened security, but eased their positions just prior to the attacks. Afterward, the owner of the hotel chain admitted that even the security that they had placed would not have been enough. Surprising to me, also, is that they actually had metal detectors at the front entrances. Would American or European hotel guests tolerate that degree of intrusion?

Regardless of who is ultimately “credited” with these attacks, the fact is that it represents a change in approach.

"This is essentially a small army sent into the heart of society with orders kill and keep killing as long as possible. And they're technically capable of creating a lot of damage and death before they can be killed. So this is more like terrorism fused with insurgency and guerilla warfare."

Even though there is some speculation that al Qaeda was responsible, for the two groups more widely mentioned, particularly an organization known as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), the motive may still be the issues surrounding Kashmir. Others will probably discuss the political and terrorism backdrop of this in the coming days. One of the key issues will be identifying who provided the training and support for the terrorists in Mumbai.

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