TERROR STRIKES MUMBAI

Samarth Pathak Hardnews/Delhi
 
Swept in a whirlpool of terror, Mumbai remains under siege since nearly 30 hours now as the forces and militants continue to engage in an explosive combat. Reportedly, at least 125 people have been killed and more than 300 injured in what is being described as the worst terrorist strike to have ever been witnessed in India. The financial capital of the nation has come to a virtual standstill as schools and colleges across the city remain closed, and the stock markets shut down. The carnage caused by the devastating attacks has not only come as a shocker to the masses, but also highlights a disturbing shift in the terror tactics employed by militant outfits in the past.

According to reports, the carnage began on the night of November 26 at Leopold Café in south Mumbai, which is a popular hang out amongst foreigners. Within a short span of two hours, the heavily armed terrorists had struck ten locations including five star hotels, railway station and hospitals. Amongst the targets of the well orchestrated attacks were high profile locations of Mumbai like The
Taj Palace Hotel, The Trident Hotel, The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, The Leopold Café, Cama hospital and Nariman House.

The militants reportedly began firing with machine guns and launched grenades to maximize the damage. Witnesses at the Taj Palace hotel said foreign nationals were also taken hostage by the terrorists with the intention to capture international attention. Many VIP's including the Jewish priest Gabriel, President of Madrid Esperanza Aguirre, MP N.N Krishnadas and British Conservative Sajjad Karim were amongst those present in the hotels. Due to the exchange of fire between the forces and the militants, gunshots were heard and multiple blasts also took place in the premises, resulting in fire.

As the devastation continued, security forces from around the country were called in to the city to bring things under control. Special teams of NSG commandos, Marine commandos, Army commandos were deployed to contain the terrorists. Assisting them were personnel from the Rapid Action Force(RAF) and the special Anti Terrorist Squad(ATS). After engaging in a fierce gunbattle with the militants, the forces soon stormed into the hotels to free the hostages and flush the terrorists out.

The casualties in the deadly terror strike included at least 81 Indians and 6 foreigners. The terrorist strike also took a heavy toll on the security forces. Amongst those killed were the chief of the ATS
in Maharashtra, Hemant Karkare, celebrated encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and Assistant Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte, along with 14 other policemen.

Though a new group, 'Deccan Mujahideen' has claimed responsiblity of the blasts, Pakistani hand is not being ruled out. Initial investigations suggest that this specialised cadre of highly trained militants came from Karachi in Pakistan to Mumbai on boats.In his address to the nation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also hinted at the role of Pakistan behind the attack. "We will take up strongly with
our neighbours that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them.", said Singh. He also promised to implement strict measures to curb terrorism in the country, by adding, "Instruments like the National Security Act will be employed to deal with situations of this kind. Existing laws will be tightened to ensure that there are no loopholes available to terrorists to escape the clutches of the law. Most importantly, it is essential to immediately set up a Federal Investigation Agency to go into terrorist crimes of this kind and ensure that the guilty are brought to book."

The Black Wednesday, as it is being called, exposes the shocking lapses in internal security of the country. A clear intelligence failure was accepted as a reason by most government officials, which
is a shame. India has been swept by a wave of terror attacks in the recent past, and the Mumbai terror strike has caught the officials napping. There is an urgent need to rethink and reform our security system to prevent the recurrence of such dastardly acts, and the sooner, the better.