'Mumbai attack planners were familiar with NSG strategies'

Posted By: IANS
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New Delhi, Nov 25: The fidayeen who laid siege to the Taj Hotel during the 26/11 terror attack not only knew the layout of the top Mumbai landmark by heart but were also very familiar with the training method of the NSG commandoes and police and were able to outmanoeuvre them at times - giving credence to the Lashkar claim that they had a mole in the Indian security establishment, according to Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, authors of 'The Siege'.

The authors also say that Indian intelligence agencies had received 26 alerts from the CIA before the terrorist strike on India's commercial capital by 10 Pakistani gunmen on Nov 26, 2008. The alerts forewarned of a fidayeen attack, of a dozen gunmen making a sea landing in Mumbai and even about most of the targets of the three-day assault that left 166 people, including foreigners, dead.

The book claims a Major Iqbal of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence boasted of a super agent dubbed 'Honey Bee' in New Delhi who passed them classified files on the training manuals of Indian police and army commandos.

"The Siege: The Attack on the Taj" is published by Penguin.

Levy and Scott-Clarke interviewed officers of the National Security Guards (NSG), India's elite counter-terror force that played a major role in eliminating the nine gunmen and ending the siege. One gunman, Ajmal Kasab, who was caught alive, was hanged last year after a trial. The NSG officers "recounted how in the Taj Palace clearance they came across several set pieces by the terrorists which caused them to worry", say the authors.

"One of these showed an intimate familiarity on behalf of Lashkar with NSG counter hostage strategy and room clearance. As a result, an NSG team was outmaneuvred and several officers were severely injured. One of the injured recounted to us what he saw and thought at the time," the authors told IANS in an email interview.

How did they infer about the Pakistani super agent codenamed Honey Bee in the Indian security establishment?

"We never concluded there was a mole as such. The Lashkar claimed to have obtained documentation from a source inside the national security establishment in India, inasmuch as they had training manuals relating to counter hostage operations, top down clearances, etc. Some of these materials were found in several locations used by Lashkar in Karachi - two barracks and one control room. Similar finds came to light in Muzaffarabad."

"(David) Headley was advised of the existence of some kind of source by the ISI - was this counter espionage work by the directorate? We don't know. Finally, two Gulf intelligence agencies warned India of the same - that training materials potentially from Special Forces were being put up for sale in the Gulf. These accumulative claims were then reported by us," they said.

But one factor was clear: "India did not attack itself. Pakistani Islamist forces attacked India." On the 26 alerts that the US passed on to Indian intelligence agencies, Scott-Clarke says: "The alerts were detailed, and began in 2006 and ended in August 2008.

"The alerts mentioned Mumbai, and then Lashkar, they talked of a fidayeen attack, and of a dozen gunmen. All targets were named apart from Nariman House. A sea landing was mentioned. Headley was the source of much of this information of course and he was placed to know as he was liaising directly with Lashkar,"

The authors say the Indian intelligence agencies were privy to a lot of intelligence inputs on the impending attack. "However, with 26/11, what is clear is that a whole lot more was known by the intelligence community in India than has been revealed to date. The IB and RAW claimed that if they had known how the US had acquired intelligence - in having a source inside Lashkar - they would have taken the bulletins more seriously. The US for its part rejected this reasoning, and in a showdown in 2009 accused some officers in RAW of incompetence."

Levy and Scott-Clark went through classified documents of Indian, the US and British security sources and thousands of unpublished court documents and confidential annexures and conducted hundreds of interviews, including with Lashkar cadres and Mumbai Police.

"The Siege: The Attack on the Taj" is published by Penguin.


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