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Saturday, 29 November 2008

Serious unanswered questions about the terror attacks

Since we posted unanswered questions about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on Friday morning, many, many, many, readers have mailed us with their own questions that need to be investigated by the security agencies.

  • How many terrorists were there? Did they number 20 as Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told a press conference on Thursday? Or did they number many more? If two or three terrorists attacked the CST, how many terrorists were present at the Taj and Trident? Did the CST terrorists drop a grenade/explosive device at Dockyard Road on the way to the station? Or was someone else responsible for that act of terror which claimed three lives?
  • The terrorists are said to have set up control rooms at the Taj and Trident hotels, a Cabinet minister told PTI on Thursday. When were these bookings made? A detailed investigation into the bookings made at both hotels in the months, weeks and days before the attacks may reveal the names of suspicious guests who registered there.
  • Military sources tell that there was no way the terrorists could have carried so much ammunition with them when they assaulted the two hotels with their guns blazing. They believe the ammunition may have been stored earlier in rooms at both the hotels, perhaps on the higher floors.
  • If some of the terrorists had registered at the hotels earlier, could these men/women have left along with the guests who were released? Did the police record the identities and addresses of the guests who were released from both hotels?
  • Indian Hotels Chairman Ratan Tata indicated on Thursday that the terrorists had intimate knowledge of the Taj, its service corridors, its layout. Does this mean that they had a mole inside the Taj? Or more worrying, did a couple of them work there at some point of time? Did they have drawings of the layout of the two hotels?
  • If the terrorists were Pakistani, how did they have such an intimate knowledge of the terrain? The two or three cowards who attacked the CST on Wednesday night made their way from the CST through a road on the left side of The Times of India building towards the Cama and Albess hospital/Azad Maidan police station, a route that is known only to true-blood Mumbaikars. Were they locals? Or did they conduct extensive reconnisance of the likely routes of escape?
  • These same two or three men, who are said to have commandeered ATS Chief Hemant Karkare's police Qualis after shooting him, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Inspector Vijay Salaskar, revealed similar familarity with the road outside the Esplanade Court, making an easy U-turn towards the Metro cinema junction rather than head on the road towards the CST. How did they know this if they were Pakistanis?
  • How did those men, whose images have appeared all over the world, get to the CST from Colaba where they are said to have landed by boat? Did they take a taxi? Or did they have local transportation? Did they come by a suburban train, which could explain the firing on one of the suburban train platforms? Who left the grenade on the Gitanjali Express, which killed a Bengali mother?
  • The terrorists are said to have done extensive reconnisance of the city. If they are Pakistanis, how did they get earlier entry to the city unnoticed? Did they come in by boat? Or did they use other routes to escape notice?
  • Such an operation could not have been conducted without extensive training and preparation, possibly on models of the Taj and Trident or Chabad House/Nariman House. Could this have been achieved at the rudimentary training camps hosted by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in Pakistan occupied Kashmir? Or was it a more systematised operation conducted by a State agency in a hostile country?
  • How did they know Chabad House/Nariman House, which even long-time residents of Colaba -- the area in South Mumbai where the Taj, the Leopold Cafe and Chabad/Nariman House are located -- are unfamiliar with? The choice of this target indicates precision thinking -- it is doubtful if the Lashkar strategists are capable of such deep strategy -- and again points the needle of suspicion at a government intelligence agency in a nation inimical to India or renegades within such a bureau.
  • Early on Thursday morning, the television channels spoke about an exchange of fire between the terrorists and the police near the Liberty cinema (which is close to the Metro cinema/Cama hospital, but situated on an inner road). There was even fear expressed that these terrorists would enter the Bombay hospital, but nothing was heard about them thereafter. Where did they go? Were these two/three terrorists the same men who took over the police Qualis and shot at people near the Metro junction? Or have they escaped?
  • The police say the two men, who took over the Qualis, grabbed the Skoda that was halted at a police road block near the Girgaum Chowpatty beach. One of them was later killed by the police. Where did the other man go? Is he the Ismail, the Lashkar terrorist who is appparently singing like a canary to the police? Or is he someone else? If these are the two of the three terrorists who attacked the CST, what happened to the third man seen in photographs and video captures? Where did he vanish?
  • Another terrorist is said to be in custody. Where was he captured? What has he told the police?
  • The Times of India reported on Friday morning that wellknown food critic Sabina Sehgal-Saikia's cellular phone recorded activity in the Raigad area, which is located across the sea from the Taj, where she was staying on the night of the attacks? Nothing has been heard from Saikia for over a day, so how did her phone reach Raigad? Could one of the terrorists have escaped under the guise of a guest to the Raigad area?
  • To this Mohit says: Sabina's husband has clarified that Airtel reps have told him that since the towers around Taj were shut down, it is possible that the phone might have picked up the signal from Raigad tower.
  • Could some of the terrorists have come by boat from the Alibag-Murud Janjira area in Maharashtra's Raigad district, rather than from Pakistan? Boats ply through the day from the Alibaug area to the Gateway of India, and it would be easy for terrorists to use this mode of transport rather than high-speed boats which would have attracted the Coast Guard's attention.
  • According to a Maharashtra Times report, the two terrorists who killed the three police officers on Wednesday night spoke Marathi! This disclosure casts fresh doubt on the origin of the terrorists. Or did each terrorist from an enemy nation have an Indian accomplice accompanying him?
  • If the attacks were restricted to South Mumbai for logistical reasons, who was responsible for the explosion on the taxi near the Santa Cruz airport in northwest Mumbai, which is located at least 25 km from Colaba?
  • Uttara wants to know:

  • If the terrorists are interested in something, how come they have not made any demands in spite of having taken so many hostages? If they kept the hostages for so long, they should have started negotiations also. This indicates that they have some other, larger ultimate objective. What is that, and has it been investigated?
  • The Deccan Mujahideen may or may not be a valid front. Has the Andhra Pradesh police and security forces started investigating that? What are the results of that?
  • Has there been any additional discussion on the terrorists who might have escaped into Bombay city, apart from these three locations? If the dead terrorists had blueprints of the major areas in the city, it means that they might launch an attack on these locations after the Taj, Oberoi and Colaba encounters are over. Have the police been investigating this, and has there been any safety precautions? The names of these places should be circulated, and civilians asked to refrain from going to those locations, so that casualties can be at a minimum. When will this be done?
  • Ravi wants to know:

  • Why did the terrorists not blow up the full building itself? What can be the reason for this? I do not believe that they do not have the ammunition for that or planning. I believe if they wanted they could have done it.
  • Winnie wants to know:

  • What is the Navy doing around the Colaba area? Why is it not monitoring or keeping a check on what goes on in the seas just below its nose?
  • Why doesn't Mumbai have enough fire ladders or other equipment which can put out fires like the ones set at the Taj?
  • Even in a terrorist attack why are most of our constabulary seen with antique rifles and without bulletproof attire?
  • Why are civilians seen in and around the affected areas in spite of a curfew call?
  • Why do the best hotels in Mumbai have such pathetic security?
  • Govind wants to know:

  • Are the CCTV records of the hotels available?
  • Assuming such large quantities of weapons had been pre-stored in the hotels, is there any security system to search these bags while being taken to the hotel?
  • Are there any missing hotel staff after the attack?
  • Rajendra wants to know:

  • How come the terrorists were able to fight for more then 40 hours? This is very clear that all these people got the arms and weapons ready on site in advance. Isn't this a question on the qualification and intelligence of our police and all other security agencies?
  • Sujoy wants to know:

  • Manmohan Singh has claimed that this terror attack has been executed by external forces. What proof has the government got in order to make such a claim? Every time a situation like this happens, the government of India makes such claims and then they give no proof to anyone, especially the common people who are always kept in dark.
  • Vinu wants to know:

  • When the commandos of the navy and the army are there why were ATS officers involved in the operation, who are ill equipped and lost their life? The man who ordered this should be held responsible for the death of bright officers and must be procecuted.
  • Lokesh wants to know:

  • Why the BCCI does not organise India-Pakistan cricket matches on neutral grounds? How many Pakistanis return after the match? How many sneak through on a tourist visa?
  • Why cant we have a centralised SSN (Social Security Number) system in India?
  • Amit wants to know:

  • Whether there are terrorists holed up in other parts of Mumbai and surroundings, as they were inside those targeted hotels? What action is necessary for those hiding terrorists in other parts, right now unknown to us?
  • How did they procure AK-56 rifles? What action is necessary which need to be taken for controling smuggling of these weapons inside Indian territory?
  • Are we planning to carry out operations inside Pakistan where the terrorists' headquarters are firmly believed to be located, if Pakistan cannot capture those responsible and as we have every right for pre-emptive action?
  • Whether we will take help of the Pakistan government and other countries in conducting such secret operations inside Pakistan to capture terrorists, as the United States is doing presently inside Pakistan if their weak system cannot achieve this?
  • Sarnath wants to know:

  • How did the room service guys not find the bombs if it had been preserved somewhere within the Taj? Some room service guys are involved? Someone inside the Taj is definitely involved.
  • King c wants to know:

  • One report said that a taxi laden with explosives was on its way to have a fidayeen attack on the Mumbai International Airport. But something went wrong and the taxi exploded at Vile Parle under the flyover itself. The question is -- who was driving the taxi? How did they get hold of the taxi? Was there support from locals?
  • How can the terrorists fight for over 40 hours without any sleep?
  • The television visuals clearly showed Hemant Karkare wearing a helmet and a bullet-proof vest. How did he get hit in the chest?
  • How could the three top cops travel together in an operation? Shouldn't they have been given back-up and cover?
  • It is said that there was a massive recruitment drives at the hotels a few months ago. It is suspected that a few of the terrorists's aides might have infiltrated into the organisation of the hotel. Is this being investigated?
  • Kunal wants to know: I just heard from a guy who escaped from the Taj on Aaj Tak. He said that he saw a lot of security personnel, but none of them questioned him when he escaped from the rear of the Taj. This means that the terrorists as well could don a normal citizen's clothes and escape without any questions asked. I want to know what about Mumbai or rather Indian citizens's security if even one among them gets lost in Mumbai's crowds?

    J D Kamble/Sachin wants to know: Why were the helicopters not brought in at the earlier stage?

  • Why are the helicopters not provided with water tanks?
  • Why was tear gas not used to disable the terrorists? Why was morphine gas not used?
  • Rohan wants to know:

  • All the security forces are searching for a ship. Is it possible that a submarine dropped off the terrorists?
  • Mohit wants to know:

  • The terrorists used satellite phones to communicate. How come their satellite phones worked and could not be traced or jammed?
  • How can the government allow the television channels to broadcast live what is happening at the three locations? These might have watched by some of the terrorists's agents around the country and helped communicate with the terrorists in the hotel who had satellite phones.
  • Nilesh wants to know:

  • With a major naval headquarters in Mumbai, how come the marine commandos came into action only the subsequent morning?
  • Why is there no permanent base of NSG commandos in Mumbai? And why did they take 10 hours to get to Mumbai?
  • Anirudh wants to know:

  • Why did the terrorists choose that late hour to begin their assault? Did they plan to attack CST and the hotels after peak hours, or were their plans held up in some way? Or did they choose that time to avoid even the small risk of being challenged by a policeman?
  • How can people carry huge rifles slung across their shoulders in the midst of a milling crowd? They are not like handguns which can be concealed under clothing and taken out when they need to be used. How come there was no panic just upon sighting people with rifles marching into a railway station or hotel lobby?
  • Did the Taj Mahal hotel officials have any sort of permission or authority from the Mumbai police before relaxing their security measures just days before the attack? If so, on what grounds was the permission granted? As a corollary, were the terrorists waiting for the measures to be relaxed before striking?
  • Prashant wants to know:

  • I was once stopped by the Taj hotel staff for being in slippers (chappals). If you can be so alert to look down at chappals (for w/e reasons), how come the same security system blunders when the ammunitions were being stored in the room well in advance?
  • What could have been the motive of the taxi blast?
  • Venkatesh wants to know:

  • The arms and ammunition being used by the terrorists --- are they purchased inside India? Or sent from outside?
  • If the ammunition is purchased in India, why can't the government regulate buying and selling such explosives and all chemicals used in the manufacturing of the explosives?
  • What was the hotel security doing when the terrorists barged into the hotel? Were the security personnel unarmed or just not equipped enough to face the attack? If this is the case, then is the security system in our country foolproof? Do we have enough protocols to face different kinds of threats?
  • The terrorists posses Indian rupees -- used to pay for rent, and make purchases. How are they able to get Indian currency? Does the RBI keep track of all the Indian rupee notes going outside India?
  • Mehul's analysis and unanswered questions:

    The primary target seems to have been to capture the Taj and Oberoi hotels and take a bunch of hostages.

    The events at VT, Leopold's, Metro etc were diversions to create panic and ensure the police were spread thin and could not respond quickly to calls from the 2 hotels.

    If the motive was to inflict maximum damage, the terrorists seem to have done very poorly with the resources they had in terms of time, ammunition and equipment. They had more than 600 people locked in the 2 hotels for more than 10 hours before the NSG got there...An AK-47 can fire 600 rounds per minute.

    From about 10:30 pm on 26th November to about 8 am on 27th November there was a complete standoff at both the hotels. There were a few guests who managed to get out at about 3 am from the Taj but there was no full scale assault by the Indian forces till the NSG got there at 8 am.

    What took place during that period of 10 hours is the key to understanding the motive of the terrorists.

    If the terrorists just wanted to kill everyone, they had ample opportunity to do so. They were obviously holding out for some kind of deal. Did the NSG spend those 10 hours negotiating a deal? Did they even make contact? I find it hard to believe that the NSG stormed the place and rescued almost every person taken hostage.

    The other worrying thing is..what prevented the terrorists (or some of them) from getting rid of their guns and just walking out of the hotel, pretending to be one of the hotel guests? Hundreds of people got out of the Taj at 3-4am. Were all of them questioned?

    The presence of American intelligence officials at the Taj that night adds another twist. There were also a group of EU officials present at the Taj for an Indo-EU summit. The terrorists had also captured group of Israelis at Nariman house. What happened to these groups? Who exactly were they? Were they the targets?

    The circumstances in which three top Mumbai policemen charged with investigating the underworld were shot is puzzling as well. Only a trained sharpshooter with inside information could have managed to do this. The fact that the sniper then got away in the police van adds further credence to the fact that he had help from the inside.

    Sridhar wants to know:

  • Is it clear at this point that most of the terrorists are Punjabi? Watching videos on India TV, I see them referring to incidents like Babri Masjid and Gujarat and also sporadic Hindi words like Neta, Shanti and parivar, but the accent is undeniably Punjabi. One terrorist also used the word 'Rab' interchangeably with Allah, and referred to 'Waqt' as 'WAKAT'. What is more all their sound bytes were basic monologues, that they seem to have memorised. And in the Big Picture, looking at their clean cut faces, lithe physiques and smart logistical moves and mastery over weapons, what are the chances that these are not terrorists, but trained Pakistani commandos themselves?
  • Deepti wants to know:

  • Why did the security personnel not think of using helicopters to air-drop personnel on the roof tops of the hotels at the beginning? It would have made operation more effective and speedy. They could have made a recce of the roof top in the early morning and could have planned air-dropping commandos on the roof top. Why was that option not considered?
  • Vipin wants to know:

  • We all know that the operation took time because the commandos were searching each and every room at the hotels and had no idea in which room the terrorists were hiding. Is it technically not feasible to tell how many people are there across the room with the help of some penetrating laser light etc?
  • Ahmed wants to know:

  • How could they have travelled 900 km to Indian territory in deeply guarded waters undetected?
  • Viraj wants to know:

  • What was the RDX going to be used for? The police found 8 kgs of RDX behind Taj. Was this forgotten by the terrorists? Or was this a drop point for them to pick up later? The explosions inside the hotels were mainly grenades and plastic explosives.
  • There are differing reports on how the top decorated officers got shot. Were they in the same car as reported by the Mumbai Mirror? Or were they shot somewhere else?
  • When a machine gun is sprayed normally the cops would have got hit by one bullet. How did Hemant Karkare have 3 shots in his chest? There is still no explanation on why he would remove his bullet-proof vest when he had worn it on live television?
  • Srikant wants to know:

  • Was any staff in the hotels on leave for the last few days? Any new employee joining the staff in recent days? This coordinated attack would not have been possible without the help of somebody from the hotel.
  • Why was there so much delay in getting the NSG unit from Pune?
  • Why was not anything done in terms of jamming the frequencies of the satellite phones? Satellite phones use a different frequency than normal mobile phones so a frequency jammer could have been installed in the hotel vicinity?
  • Why are we not getting the stats on the terrorists bodies?
  • Have the calls made from the hotels in the last week to places outside India been analysed?
  • Gautam wants to know:

  • Why did the terrorists choose a Wednesday night to attacks these popular Western tourist hotels? A weekend might have caused greater damage. This leads me to believe that it might have been convenient for them to do it on the particular day. Maybe the ship they supposedly caught sailed accordingly. It is a possibility that there were groups that arrived by various means to Colaba.
  • How many were there in all? I read an eye-witness (a lady staying in the fishermen colony nearby) claiming that she saw 6 people getting out of a boat and walking towards the Taj/Trident. There were definitely more that 6. Since the TV cameras caught a few of them, it should be straightforward to get the exact count along with the help of survivors.
  • The TV crew managed to get photos of the terrorists standing in the window with guns. They appeared to look like nice targets for snipers. How come there were no snipers taking shots at them?
  • Were there any photographs of the terrorists taken by hostages on cell phone cameras?
  • Satish wants to know:

  • From the TV footage, the commandos don't seem to have the following equipment. It would be great to know what the government's position is on equipping the personnel with the following hi-tech equipment: a. Night-vision goggles. These would have helped the commandos gain thermal imagery of the terrorists and their location in the night. B. Headsets with wireless communication: We normally see soldiers deployed in the Iraq / Afghanistan operations using these. C. Bullet-proof vests/ helmets. The vests the officers were wearing appeared to be very flimsy and not effective. What is the quality of these vests?
  • Prakash wants to know:

  • 40 hours without sleep or rest?? You can't do it even when you are just sitting. I can't imagine in that intense situation. So were they using any medical stuff?? If so, can't we know through post mortem what those medicines are and how and where the possibility of them coming from??
  • Sunil wants to know:

  • Did the government appoint any one officer at the head of the operation to combat these attacks? It seems different group of security forces were working independently without any coordination and clear guidance?
  • Sulekha wants to know:

  • The army claims it had sent a warning about a suspicious boat/ship, why wasn't this followed up by the government? Why didn't the army check with the government again to make sure it was followed upon?
  • Different passports have been found from the terrorists, what do they suggest?
  • Two cars were reported to have sped away with terrorists. Have the cars been found? Have the terrorists been captured? Have they been killed?
  • Considering the well planned attack that they have conducted and their eye for detail, isn't it possible that the terrorists have eyes outside of the three locations they captured? What measures are being taken to find out who else could be part of the mission besides the terrorists who have been involved in activity in these three places?
  • Ajay wants to know:

  • In one video, when the late Hemant Karkare was putting on his bullet-proof jacket, I noticed that one person was hiding his face from camera. As the camera moved, this guy moved along with the camera by covering his face. Who was that person?
  • Rajeev wants to know:

  • I have a simple query to those who have put up CCTV. Is this footage meant to be seen after the event or monitored real-time?
  • Kanna says:

  • Suppose A checks into TAJ on 1st Nov, (carries minimum stock). On 3rd Nov at 4 pm B checks in along with his stock. A moves his stock to B's room and checks out at 5 pm. On 6th Nov C checks in at 7 pm. B's stock along with A's is moved to C. B checks out at 8 pm..... and so on till the D Day. A study of the check in and outs should also be studied.
  • Siddharth notes:

  • It would be a good idea to review short sale positions on hotel scrips, specially Indian Hotels. Who had taken large short sale positions on Indian Hotels before 26/11? It could lead to some more clues.
  • Satish notes:

  • While it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that there is adequate security for each citizen, it is surprising to see the amount of ammunition and equipment present in these hotels. Is it the responsibility of the hotel management to ensure adequate security, checks and balances and compliance with KYC norms? The management of these hotels is therefore equally answerable for the disaster of this magnitude.

    The management of these hotels should also provide adequate insurance cover as 5 star hotels charge premium rates from guests. If the management is unable to take care of its customers/premium guests, they have to be equally answerable instead of blaming only the government.

    Hotel managements' inability to provide the complete details of its occupants shows the careless attitude of the staff and the failure of the hotel administration as the traffic of terrorists to hotels must be going on for months to plant operations of this size and magnitude. No effort should be spared to put in place a fully considered and partnered solution with joint investigations/thoughts of the management of these hotels and other establishments with the government.

  • Moby wants to know:

  • The army said the terrorists keep shifting their positions from one floor to another, and from one room to another. Why was their transit area not checked and blocked initially? To go from one floor to another they would use a lift, stairs or laundry passage. To go from one room to another they have to pass through corridors. Why were all these not blocked and secured initially?
  • Sirish wants to know:

  • If the terrorists are killed, why are the photographs not released? This would help intelligence agencies across the states and other countries to check their background.
  • Even if we agree that the terrorists landed a few days back and then planned this, did they carry all the ammunition, guns and goods from their hideouts to the hotel? Or was someone waiting for them at these points to hand it over to them?