Mumbai attackers had hit list of 320 world targets: Report

20 02 2009

Source: TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) ringleaders had ambitions well beyond Mumbai and had placed India’s financial hub in a list of 320 worldwide locations as potential targets for commando-style terror strikes, Britain’s daily Guardian said in a report published on Thursday.
According to the report, western intelligence agencies that accessed the computer and email account of the Lashkar’s communications chief Zarar Shah found a list of possible targets, only 20 of which were in India.
Two of the November 2008 attack’s key planners – Shah and Lashkar’s operations chief Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi – are now in police custody in Pakistan.
Analysts say the computer list is more of a statement of intent because Lashkar would need time to set up terrorist cells in so many places.
Islamabad’s decision to bring criminal charges against nine men accused of involvement in the Mumbai attack has partly placated Indian officials but the government in New Delhi has said it wants to see people brought to justice for terrorist acts.
“There has been some speculation that raids in Spain which netted 12 men- an Indian and 11 Pakistanis – were a result of the investigations into Lashkar’s role in the Mumbai attacks,” the report said.
“The dozen men were reportedly picked up for forging passports and other travel documents for terror organisations, including al-Qaida.
Pakistan’s government has said the Mumbai attacks were partly planned from Spain.
The US has been trying behind the scenes to coordinate intelligence exchanges between the two nuclear-armed rivals. The CIA has worked hard to be seen to help New Delhi – including by recovering phone numbers deleted by the terrorists on their satellite phones.
India has also received crucial evidence from the US agency FBI in connection with the 26/11 attacks.
Intelligence agencies have warned that Mumbai raises the spectre of a new style of terrorist assault. The city was brought to a halt by 10 heavily armed gunmen rampaging through the CST railway station, a house, restaurant Café Leopold, and hotels Trident-Oberoi and Taj for three days, killing over 180 people.

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LeT is looking at India through the global lens

29 12 2008

Source: TOI
Were the masterminds and perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage influenced by al- Qaida, the chief proponent of global jihad? In future, will sub-continental terrorists prefer to attack the ‘crusader and Jewish’ target set identified by the global jihadists as opposed to ‘Indian government and Hindu’ targets? The Mumbai attack was unprecedented in target selection; of the five pre-designated targets. Was the target selection influenced by India’s alliance with the US and Israel? The method of operation was classic al-Qaida style – a coordinated, near simultaneous attack against high profile and symbolic targets aimed at inflicting mass casualties. The only difference was that it was a fidayeen attack, a classic LeT modus operandi.

With the US deepening its political, economic and military ties with India, will Muslim extremist groups in the subcontinent come under the operational and ideological influence of al-Qaida? The Mumbai attack was a watershed. It demonstrated the stark departure by the LeT from being an anti-Indian to both an anti-Indian and an anti-western group. LeT’s direct and operational role in Mumbai attack surprised the security and intelligence services of Pakistan, India and other governments. Very much a group founded to fight the Indian presence in Kashmir, LeT has evolved into operating against targets throughout India. Today, it has moved further from a national to a regional and a global group.

Although its rhetoric has been anti-Indian, its anti-western rhetoric has grown significantly since 9/11. The mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi directed LeT military operations even outside the Indian theatre. He dispatched LeT trained Pakistani and foreign operatives to Chechnya, Bosnia and Southeast Asia. And since 2003, they have been sent to assess the situation in Iraq, and later to attack US forces in Iraq. Although LeT operatives have been arrested in the US, Europe, and in Australia, LeT was not a priority group for the international community. It is because LeT did not align itself with al-Qaida and refrained from operating in Afghanistan. But it maintained relations with al-Qaida at an operational level.

Until Mumbai, LeT has been in the category of Islamist nationalist groups. Some groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hizbul Mujahideen remained Muslim nationalist groups. In contrast, groups in Egypt, Algeria and Indonesia that began with local agendas transformed into groups with regional and international agendas.

After the US intervention in Afghanistan, the epicentre of international terrorism has shifted from Afghanistan to tribal Pakistan. The influence of al-Qaida is profound on groups in tribal Pakistan such as Tehrik-e-Taliban and on mainland Pakistani groups. The insurgency in Federally Administered Tribal Areas is spilling to NWFP and beyond. To contain their influence, the Pakistan government proscribed a number of militant groups. By 2008, exploiting the political instability, a number of these banned groups, that adopted new names, began to operate openly.

Over time, both New Delhi and Islamabad are likely to realise the need to fight a common threat, both ideologically and operationally. Mumbai has demonstrated that the pre-eminent national security challenge facing both India and Pakistan is terrorism and not each other.

The writer teaches at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, one of the world’s largest counter-terrorism centre. He is the author of the bestselling Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror