Urban Counterterrorist Sieges: The 2008 Mumbai Attack and Police (In)Capacity
Abstract: The Mumbai terrorist attack of 2008 exposed key vulnerabilities in India’s defences against urban terrorism. Not only did it reflect an unprecedented degree of sophistication on the part of jihadist planners, but the attack also demonstrated that the Indian policing system was woefully inadequate for the task of combating suicidal assaults. This work provides an analysis of the tactical and operational aspects of the Indian security response, with a view towards identifying lessons which might be valuable for the international security community. Its findings are expected to be particularly relevant in light of similar attacks carried out by jihadists in Europe and Africa during the 2013-2015 period. The work describes the actual conduct of security operations on the ground in Mumbai, during 26-29 November 2008. It studies the response of the Indian police, army, navy and National Security Guards and demonstrates that inter-force cooperation was severely lacking. Besides clear protocols for communicating situational updates and pooling crisis intelligence, counterterrorism in India lacked a coherent public relations doctrine. Together, these shortcomings contributed to the spread of panic and multiplied the disruption caused by the attack. The work concludes by offering suggestions for improving police responses to future urban terrorist sieges.
Keywords: Terrorism, Intelligence, SWAT, India, Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba