Terrorists Target Mumbai Again



  • Terrorists struck Mumbai, the financial capital of India killing 150 people and injuring 439

  • No group has taken responsibility but suspicion is Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. Pakistan denies culpability

  • India has not blamed Pakistan but police has found large caches of arms in recent past pointing to Pakistan but failed to predict this large an attack

Terrorists struck Mumbai, the Indian financial nerve center, by blasting a string of 7 powerful bombs within 11 minutes on commuter trains and stations packed to the brim at commute hour killing 150 people and injuring 439 others. The metro system in Mumbai carries an estimated 1.6 million people every day and this attack on the Western line was apparently focused on extracting the maximum casualties. Police sources fear that casualty numbers may be higher than early reports suggest. Suburban services on the Central and Harbor lines were not affected.

Survivors relate tales of blood and gore where bleeding survivors jumped off speeding trains in panic. They praise the bravery of locals who rescuing passengers, organizing evacuation, and delivering first aid even before the police arrived. They highlight the compassion of a heartless metropolis where restaurateurs gave free food, shop-owners giving free water, residents granting free lodging, vehicle owners giving free rides, and private hospitals granting medical attention regardless of the financial capacity of those brought in.

As news of the explosion spread, mobile services and land lines were jammed and panic-stricken commuters rushing to call their close relatives and friends about their were unable to do so. People reached the affected spots in 15-20 minutes but local youth swung into action and with utter disregard for their own life used bed sheets, clothing, or other material and commandeered all taxis to move the injured to hospitals. The state government announced an immediate ex-gratia aid of Rs one lakh (USD 2,000) to the families of the dead.

Intelligence agencies are unsure of what happened but the usual suspects include the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Dawood Ibrahim, and the al Qaeda. Many analysts were surprised that the intelligence agencies did not have any inkling of this attack.

Previous Terror Incidents

March 12, 1993: Serial explosions occurred at 13 places killing 257 persons and injuring 1,200.
December 2, 2002: Two persons killed and 31 injured in an explosion in a bus outside a railway station.
December 6, 2002: Twenty-five persons injured in a bomb blast at a McDonalds restaurant at Mumbai Central suburban railway station.
January 27, 2003: At least 30 persons injured when a bomb planted on a bicycle went off outside Vile Parle railway station.
March 13, 2003: A powerful bomb blast shattered a coach of a local train killing 11 persons and injuring 65.
August 25, 2003: At least 48 were persons killed and 150 injured in two blasts in south Mumbai.

While agencies have been anticipating an explosion of violence at 1989 levels sponsored by the ISI  the expectation was that this was going to be confined to the Jammu & Kashmir and not all over India. However, there has been a rising trend of police discovering large caches of arms, bomb making material, and weapons in Maharashtra. It is not known whether the police thought that they had got it all and what follow-through investigations were kicked off with the revelations of those arrested with those raids.

Security Analysts fear that more attacks targeting the railway system as it has a poorly trained, equipped, and disenfranchised security force that has no accountability of enforcement. Moreover, the sheer volume of people traveling on this system makes it impossible for fool-proof mechanisms of security. The usual modus operandi is to leave behind a briefcase, a lunch box, or other common items under a seat with a timer setting.

The motive for this incident is unknown but the objective is clearly to attack the financial nerve center of India, create investor-panic, and cause disruption in daily life. India suspects Pakistan which immediately disavows any connection to such incidents. However, intelligence agencies argue that paying someone to do the dirty work does not absolve the dreaded Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. Unlike past incidents, India is not quick to lay the blame on Islamabad. This is attributed to reluctance of the Government to scuttle the ongoing peace process with Pakistan.

However, what policy makers need to remember is that peace cannot be bought and requires mutual desire for peace. The Pakistan Army is notorious for its unending appetite to see what it can get away with and less worried with what it is capable of getting away with. Every time there is a peace process, there are terrorist incidents for which the Pakistani claims innocence and passes it to rogue elements within its own system. By outsourcing the problem to the ISI, which then contracts the hits to terrorist outfits, the Pakistan Government has successfully established deniability and non-culpable terrorism. India must stop this well used trend and refuse any conversation till Pakistan is able to hand over top criminals hiding in Pakistan. Further, it should also make life inconvenient for Pakistani terrorists to operate in India. Free travel of passengers from Pakistan has not only weakened Indian security but is also allowing flow of heroin into India.

The only way to avoid and not completely eliminate such incidents is developing a strong intelligence network. Ranging from Naxal menace to regional subversion, the Home Ministry is fighting too many fires reactively and not developing a comprehensive intelligence network nationally. Instead of using clichés to divert blame, it needs to develop a strategy to develop stronger intelligence network.