Amir Taheri, who describes radical Islam as a beast with an extraordinary ability to mutate, discusses the modern world debut of its new attack tactics in Mumbai. But the tactics themselves are ages old, and were, like the “airplane” attack used on 9/11, practiced on a smaller scale.
it looks as if the perpetrators were trying to imitate the tactic of ghazwa, used by the Prophet against Meccan caravans in his decade-long campaign to seize control of the city. The tactic consists of surprise no-holds-barred attacks simultaneously launched against a caravan or settlement with the aim of demoralising the enemy and hastening his capitulation.
The Bombay attacks differed from previous terror operations in India … his time, however, the approach was “symphonic”, in the sense that it involved different types of operations blended together.
Involved in the operations were men who had placed explosives at selected points. But there were also gunmen operating in classic military style by seizing control of territory at symbolically significant locations along with hostages. Then there were militants prepared to kill, and be killed, in grenade attacks against security forces. …
Although new to India, the tactic of “symphonic” attacks has been tried in a number of other countries in the past decade, notably Algeria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, at times with devastating effects.
Most recently, it was tried, on a smaller scale, by the Taliban in the Afghan city of Qala-Mussa. Theoretically, the tactic could be used in any city, from Bombay to New York, passing through London and Paris.
Bill Roggio observes that the symphonic attacks require a conductor, score sheet and extensive coordination. It did not come cheap and was not an amateur job.
To pull off an attack of this magnitude, it requires months of training, planning, and on-site reconnaissance. Indian officials have stated that the terrorists set up “advance control rooms” at the Taj Mahal and Trident (Oberoi) hotels, and conducted a significant amount of reconnaissance prior to executing the attack. If the news about the “control rooms” is accurate, these rooms may also have served as weapons and ammunition caches for the assault teams to replenish after conducting the first half of the operation. …
One of the more intriguing aspects of the attack is how the teams entered Mumbai. Reports indicate at least two of the assault teams arrived from outside the city by sea around 9 p.m. local time. Indian officials believe most if not all of the attackers entered Mumbai via sea.
Indian Coast Guard, Navy, Mumbai maritime police, and customs units have scoured the waters off Mumbai in search of a “mother ship” that transported one or more smaller Gemini inflatable boats used by the attackers. A witness saw one of the craft land in Colaba in southern Mumbai and disgorge eight to 10 fighters.
Two ships that have been boarded are strongly suspected of being involved in the attacks: the Kuber, an Indian fishing boat, and the MV Alpha, a Vietnamese cargo ship. Both ships appear to have been directly involved. The Kuber was hijacked on Nov. 13, and its captain was found murdered. Four crewmen are reported to still be missing.
Therefore the attacks cannot be understood as as simply some “teenage gunmen” letting off some fanaticism. Whoever staged the attacks was playing a deep game for high stakes. Taheri notes, as pointed out in previous Belmont Club posts, that the Mumbai attacks were aimed at any possible easing of tensions with India, which Barack Obama hopes to build upon to get Pakistan to crack down on al-Qaeda.
The attacks came 48 hours after Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, practically threw away 50 years of Pakistani policy by announcing his readiness to end the dispute with India over Kashmir.
Zardari is an ethnic Baluch who, unlike previous Pakistani leaders who had Indian backgrounds, has no direct family history in pre-partition India. As a result, he is not as sensitive on Kashmir as his predecessors.
One of the biggest obstacles to dealing with this mutating beast is the Western intelligensia’s perverse inclination to assign altruistic or holy motives to what are purely criminal or political aims. This is not to deny the genuinely spiritual aspirations of Muslims because that is a universal human trait. But there is a need to distinguish between man’s search for the numinous, which is part of our common heritage, and confidence tricks of caravan raiders who dress up their predatory activities with the color of religion. The age of the sound-bite has shown itself as bandwidth limited as the age of illiteracy. Today it is often enough to describe oneself as holy, a prophet or a messiah to blind the world to the true character of banditry.