Why We Must Pay Attention to the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

By Sean Osborne, Associate Director

See UPDATED research at the bottom of this analysis and both domestic and foreign OSINT validation of this assessment.

27 November 2008: The Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist attacks in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) India may well be a bellwether for Western counter-terrorist operations, particularly in the United States. Given the 25 November FBI/DHS advisory regarding “a plausible but unsubstantiated report” on “discussions” within Al-Qa’ida communications channels, all things must be considered relevant in order to counter the threat of Islamic jihadist strikes in America.

There is no doubt that Al Qa’ida discussions half a world away in Mumbai evolved beyond the “aspirational planning.” I think it necessary at this point to reiterate that one of the primary forms of “aspirational planning” discussions among Al Qa’ida jihadists are found on the forums resident with internet websites. As Randy Taylor reported 18 days ago, an Al Qa’ida “aspirational planning” document was posted on one of their primary forums. Item number 9 in the 15-item “aspirational planning” list of desired targets is the subject of the current FBI/DHS advisory.

Based upon analysis of this communication, as well as other more recent communications, the Northeast Intelligence Network most certainly may be in possession of further information, as have you and every other entity which read Mr. Taylor’s report. This kind of information is known within the United States Intelligence Community (US IC) as Indications & Warnings (I&W). Moreover, the list in the communication we collected goes far beyond strikes in the manner of the London or Madrid suicide bombers on the transporation sector in the northeastern United States and Canada. This communication discussed strikes against nine different nuclear power stations located across the entire northeast region and the entire electrical grid. In multiple and overwhelming instances it references strikes against the financial infrastructure of the United States based in New York City. It discussed what can only be mass tactical assaults on seven passenger laden commercial airports. It discussed the financial impact upon the United States during a time of financial crisis as well as the minimal cost to the Islamic jihadists in executing the strikes, and that they will occur at some particular point in time without warning.

Let’s shift our focus to Mumbai. How do these multiple attacks in India compare to what I’ve just discussed? They are well-coordinated mass attacks across a single major Indian city. But more importantly I think it should be obvious that the tactical execution of these attacks evidences a significant departure from the previous template of broad-daylight terrorist strikes. These Indian jihadists utilized darkness as tactical cover for the execution of a major, multi-faceted terrorist operation by launching the entire operation at 10 PM local time in Mumbai.

This evident change in tactics begs some analytical questions. Was this change in tactics based upon an Al Qa’ida leadership operational directive, or was it left to the local cell leadership to determine? Is this what occurred in the attacks against the World Trade Center in New York City in February 1993 and again in September 2001? It would appear so – the local commander determined the timing of attack, Al Qa’ida’s central command merely approved the concept and targets of the strike, and was generally aware in advance that the strikes would occur. Al Qa’ida central was briefed on the plan of attack, it did not originate them.

All of this has brought about a change in my thinking about the execution of terrorist attacks. Al-Qa’ida is a decentralized terrorist entity. It was years ago at the urging of Mustafa Setmariam Nasar (Abu Mus’ab al-Suri), the Al Qa’ida master tactician, theoretician and composer of the Al Qa’ida warfighting doctrine, who urged individual jihadists and cells worldwide to execute independent jihad operations on its behalf.

Since the Al Qa’ida leadership places no constraints on the timing of attacks by its worldwide cells, there exists the distinct possibility that the leader of a given terrorist cell could choose an Islamic or Infidel date of significance or anniversary upon which to execute a strike. In this respect the “setting of dates” by individual jihadi posters on their forums cannot be completely ignored or discounted. Just because this “setting of dates” has not been the case in the past does not mean it won’t be the case in the present or in the future. In fact, Islamic jihadists have repeatedly struck Israeli civilian targets on Hebrew dates of significance or holidays on many occasions over many years. The point here is that one additional and very recent jihadi forum post cites a specific date during the first week of January 2009 in which a “settling of accounts” with President George W. Bush will occur. We’ll see what actually transpires relative to these near-term threats, yet I believe it is prudent for all concerned to learn from past events as well as the recent.

UPDATE: The Identity of the Jihadists Responsible Revealed:

The terrorist assault in Mumbai, India, was comprised of, or trained by, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) who were acting in unison with, on behalf of, or in support of the global islamofascist jihad under the umbrella of the Al Qa’ida terrorist organization.

A BBC report, the headline which has since been edited from it’s original and relevant “Mumbai attacks show method amid madness” to the blandly benign “Troops search Mumbai siege hotel.” How utterly atypical of a global main stream media giant as the BBC, hailing from that bastion of Dhimmitude now known worldwide as Londonistan, to make such a change. Nevertheless, the details within the article coincide with detailed research I had been conducting during the day. My research with respect to this BBC report follows in the same format in which I had Emailed it to select individuals yesterday afternoon:

“This report pretty much hits the nail on the head in identifying the perps of the Mumbai assaults without specifically naming them, so I will.

The tactics which I keyed on in my NEIN analysis point directly to those of the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba).

The LeT have long demonstrated a desire for:

A.) direct armed combat with Indian security forces,

B.) conducting deep penetration operations as a kind of jihadist “special operations forces”,

C.) operate routinely in small military squad-sized groups,

D.) conduct operations specifically with the intent to capture and massacre unarmed civilians,

E.) perfer to die in combat rather than be captured,

The LeT has links to the Pakistani ISI (funding, materiel and other assorted forms of assistance) and various jihad goups in Afghanistan (Taliban and Al Qa’ida) and may even provide perimeter physical security personnel for Al Qa’ida HVT’s like bin Laden and al-Zawahri, also operating the training camps for them in Afghanistan and Pakistan via ISI assistance.

There is direct linakge between the LeT and Ramzi YOUSEF and Mir Aimal KANSI (who assassinated CIA personnel in Washington DC in 1993).

The LeT may have renamed itself Jama’at-ud-Da’wah (JUD).

Recent jihadi posts collected by Archangel definitively reflect the types of terrorist operations this group is very adept in conducting - particularly those relative to direct assaults on US military bases, ships and nuclear infrastructure.

If any group in Pakistan could gain access to Pakistani nuclear material it might well be the LeT.”

Today we learn that a report also filed yesterday by The Times of India concurs with the research analysis above regarding the role of Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT) in this unprecedented terrorist operation.

Additionally the The New York Times has published a report headlined as “U.S. Intelligence Focuses on Pakistani Group” which names the LeT and its direct ties to the Pakistani government, but does not specifally detail why. The “why” is included within my analysis above.

The LeT have now assumed world-class Islamofascist terrorist status along with their brethren in Hezbollah and Al Qa’ida.

UPDATE 01 December 2008: Goals of the Mumbai Assault

It appears to be an inescapable conclusion to this analyst that a primary goal of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) assault on Mumbai was to precipitate armed conflict between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan. The LeT deliberately made sure that an easily discovered trail of evidentiary crumbs would enable direct links to Pakistan once discovered by Indian intelligence and counter-terrorism investigators.

Precipitating such an armed clash between the two countries would serve two strategic objectives:

1.) An easing of Pakistani military pressure on the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Islamist allies (Al Qa’ida and Taliban, among others) in the western Pakistani tribal areas known as the (Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Indeed one of the first post-assault OSINT reports from Pakistan discussed to redeployment of Pakistani armor from the FATA region eastwards towards the Indian border.
2.) A reduced Pakistani military pressure on the Islamists in FATA would force increased U.S. intervention and strikes against the entrenched Islamists in the FATA; further increasing foreign military pressures upon Islamabad.

Among the evidences discovered by Indian investigators:

• A satellite phone used in the pre-assault phase of terrorist communications was discovered onboard the Merchant Vessel Kuber. Call records reveal that calls were made directly to Zakir Ur Rehman, the LeT training chief, located in Jalalabad, Pakistan.
• Indian intelligence became aware in mid-July of two dozen LeT terrorists training in the Pakistan village of Durbari Mitho and that a Pakistani ISI officer was directly involved in the training activities. The skilled urban combat tactics displayed by the terrorists reveals the purpose of the ISI officer. I surmise that the ISI officer selected the AK-56 assault rifle (ChiCom version of the Russian AK-47) to be used in the assault as it is arguably the best assault weapon in the world.