Saturday, November 29, 2008

Terrorists turn technology into weapon of war in Mumbai

November 29, 2008 11:00pm

Terrorist use technology in Mumbai attacks
TERROR attacks ... smoke and debris are seen after Indian soldiers fired at a room where terrorists were believed to be hiding inside The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai in India. Picture: AFP

THEIR battle fatigues are jeans, T-shirts and trainers. They are the new breed of terrorist ¿ using everyday technology as a weapon of war.

Among their arsenal of weapons are bags of almonds and BlackBerry mobile phones – almonds to keep their energy up, and the mobile internet connections to stay one step ahead of police and the military.

They are the new breed of terrorist – using everyday technology as a weapon of war.

Well-trained, focused and armed to the teeth, the small group of young but hardened Islamic militants slipped into India's financial capital undetected last week to unleash a wave of carnage.

Indian security officials said the attackers entered Mumbai by sea in small dinghies on Wednesday evening, having been dropped off near the coast by a larger ship.

They then split into groups: among the first targets was the Chatrapati Shivaji railway station, where at least two men opened fire with automatic weapons and threw grenades into a crowd of travellers in the main waiting hall.

They left behind a pile of nearly 50 bodies – and images of their young, calm faces caught by security cameras.

Evading capture as Indian security forces rushed to the station, the gunmen then attacked a charitable hospital for women and children, the Cama Hospital, shooting indiscriminately.

Again police responded, including the head of Mumbai's Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), Hemant Karkare, who was shot dead outside the hospital along with two other senior officers.

Another group struck at the Cafe Leopold, one of Mumbai's best-known restaurants and a favoured hangout of tourists and expatriates.

"They took weapons out of their sacks, lobbed three grenades and began shooting at anything that moved with their automatic weapons," a French tourist said.

Another group used a hijacked police vehicle for drive-by shootings before attacking the main targets, symbols of Mumbai's wealth and multicultural character.

The objectives were two luxury hotels – the Taj Mahal, one of Mumbai's most famous landmarks, and the Oberoi/Trident – plus a business-residential complex that also houses a Jewish centre and hostel for Israeli visitors.

Intelligence sources said some militants may have been in the city beforehand, pre-positioning arms and explosives and ready to link up with the boat squad.

Two of the killers were members of staff at the Taj Mahal hotel, according to one report, and two others were staying there as guests, enabling them to plan the attack and gain an edge over security forces by familiarising themselves with the layout of the labyrinthine Edwardian building.

Indian marine commandos who battled terrorists at the hotel, just across the road from the Gateway of India where terrorists had alighted by boat to begin their killing spree, said the gunmen were remorseless and well trained.

"Definitely they were trained,'' said a masked officer of the force.

''Not everybody can fire AK-series weapons.

''Using such weapons and explosives, it is obvious they were trained somewhere.

"These people were very, very familiar with the hotel layout.

''It appeared that they had carried out a survey (of the hotel) before.

''And they were very determined.


One of the rucksacks carried by one of the terrorists, later recovered by commandos, contained a Mauritian national's identity card, Chinese-made grenades, seven ammunition magazines, 400 spare rounds of ammunition, seven credit cards from different banks, dry rations and thousands of dollars in cash.

However amid the arsenal of military hardware, it was the use of humble mobile phones and internet technology that proved a key weapon – one which caught the anti-terrorist forces by surprise.

The use of BlackBerrys by the terrorists to monitor international reaction to the atrocities, and to check on the police response via the internet, provided further evidence of the highly organised and sophisticated nature of the attacks.

The gunmen were able to trawl the internet for information after cable television feeds to the two luxury hotels and office block were cut by the authorities.

The men looked beyond the instant updates of the Indian media to find worldwide reaction to the events in Mumbai, and to keep abreast of the movements of the soldiers sent to stop them.

Fighting room-by-room through two luxury hotels, over dozens of bodies and through darkened corridors slick with blood, the military forces came up against well-trained and determined gunmen.

Giving an account of the commando raid at the besieged Taj hotel, the leader of the elite marine commandos said his team saw about 50 bodies scattered through the hotel during the operation to flush out the terrorists.

Up to 15 bodies were found in one room, he said.

"They were the kind of people with no remorse,'' a disguised commando told reporters.

''Anybody and whomsoever came in front of them, they fired.

"They appeared to be a determined lot, wanting to create and spread terror."

He said the commandos had been hampered by not knowing the layout of the 400 rooms in the hotel and the fact that the exchanges of fire took place in darkness.

The terrorists were hurling grenades and firing from different floors.

Because they could not be seen, they were operating with ease, he said.

Because of their knowledge of the building, the terrorists were able to strike at will.

The commando said the assault team had noticed only three or four terrorists.

The gunmen probably were operating from different floors, he said, because they appeared very well versed with the topography of the hotel, where they were holed up for nearly 40 hours.

"When we first exchanged fire we could have got the terrorists, but for the hotel guests (in the line of fire)," he said.

"The bodies were lying strewn here and there and blood was everywhere.

"These people were very, very familiar with the hotel layouts and it appears they had carried out a survey before."

The gunmen moved from place to place with ease.

To further confuse the commandos, they switched off lights.

Many guests hid in their rooms until they were rescued.

Others were not so lucky.

Many guests said they cowered in the dark for hours, waiting to be rescued and fearing the militants would shoot them at any moment. Others desperately armed themselves with knives and meat cleavers.

"We heard some gunshots,'' said Faisul Nagel, a South African security guard who was in the Taj Mahal hotel with colleagues when the assault began.

''We barricaded the restaurant and we moved everybody into the kitchen."

Using tables and refrigerators to barricade themselves in, Mr Nagel said they armed themselves with the only weapons they could find.

"We basically put the lights off in the restaurant just to create an element of surprise.

''And we armed ourselves with kitchen knives and meat cleavers."

They ended up helping about 120 people escape – including a 90-year-old woman who had to be carried in her chair down 25 flights of stairs.

Terrorists turn technology into weapon of war in Mumbai
Courier Mail, Australia