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Mumbai Massacre

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Murder in Mumbai Yields New Terrorist Threat: "Jihadi Infantry"

December 1st 2008

India Topics - Mumbai Massacre

As Indian security ended the terrorist attacks in the financial capital of the Indian region, a first evaluation of the attacks is now ongoing.

Jihadi Infantry Appears on Global Stage

According to emerging reports in Mumbai, the armed group has attacked at least ten targets inside the city including the iconic Taj Hotel, Oberoi Hotel, a railway station, the Leopold Café, the Trident Hotel, the Chabad Jewish center, a hospital and other locations. The terrorists fired indiscriminately against civilians but also targeted security officials and lobbed grenades. Indian security reports some 180 deaths, and hundreds more wounded. All known terrorists were presumably killed and one arrested. Indian security sources confirmed the use of AK-47s, small arms, grenade, etc. The operation, involved a dozen Jihadis "deployed" in several positions, after "landing" from sea.

In my book Future Jihad I coined these types of forthcoming strikes as "urban Jihad." Instead of bombers and suicide bombers, the command sends "Jihadi infantry." The tactical goal of these actions is to engage in different types of missions: random killings, chaos, killing of security officers and hostage taking. 

Operational Structure

The Mumbai attack is complex. A number of small operations created widespread chaos, triggering security deployment in many areas, while more precise operations targeted higher targets such as hostage taking or similar situation. We will know more as the investigations expands. But it appears this attack was many months in planning. Most importantly, the Mumbai operation launches a very new type of outrage, fear and international instability.


In view of the historical context, precedents and latest analysis, the most likely groups that may be behind these attacks are the Lashkar-e-Taiba/SIMI (they now call themselves “Indian Mujahedeen”). These groups are jihadists, have links to the other organizations in Kashmir but also inside Pakistan with pro-Taliban elements and eventually up to Al Qaeda, which sits at the apex. Their ideological identification is most likely jihadist although the exact “responsible group” almost surely will issue a more than one release to claim the attack and put it in context. By whatever moniker, their attack is part of an ongoing struggle between jihadis and the Indian state. In October, Indian security forces arrested several Indian Mujahedeen members. Those arrests were a response to attacks in other cities. So, the Mumbai massacres are part of a chain of events.

It is important to remember that Al-Qaeda is the centre of a web. They sit among the Taliban. In Pakistan, the Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed are all interlinked. Hence, we are dealing with a transnational force, stretching geopolitically from Afghanistan to India. These organizations learn from each other. In India, the jihadis are simply applying the Al-Qaeda model, even if they are not organically a part of it. 

The Goal

On a local level, the "emirs" have sent these armed elements in their 20s to strike at the very Indian psyche. On the regional level, there may be another motive--sink the emerging Pakistani-Indian rapprochement. Jihadis in Pakistan have been under pressure, especially under the new President Asif Ali Zardari, because of the ongoing military operations in Waziristan. Therefore, a strategic objective emerges: break down this rapprochement between the two neighbors. If that happens, Pakistan will be forced to pull back units operating against the Taliban and move them to the border with India. That would ease pressure on the Taliban.

In any event, this is a large Jihadi operation—literally an urban Jihadi infantry invasion-- against one of the world’s emerging economies and the largest democracy in Asia. It targets India as a power engaged in the War on Terror but also further destabilizes the entire region, including Pakistan and its neighbor Afghanistan.

But the wider goal is to instill shock and awe worldwide, much as was done after the 9/11 attacks. Hotels now join the list of terror targets “locked down” in our world, along with trains, subways, airports, and seaports.

India's reaction

Indian citizens are seething with rage, sensing a Pakistani link to the attack. The question is how should India respond to Pakistan’s inability or unwillingness to go after jihadis? Clearly, the crisis must be internationalized. If we leave it to India and Pakistan, then anger with a nuclear potential will rule.

Three steps are needed now. First, the U.S., Europe and Russia should convene a meeting against the Jihadi challenge. Second, the Pakistan government must send out a strong signal that it will combat terrorism. Perhaps the Pakistan prime minister should visit Mumbai and declare from there that both countries are united in the fight against terrorism. Third, terrorist organizations inside Pakistan must be given a strong message that any attack on India is an attack on Pakistan itself by virtue of its inherent destabilizing nature. 

The question arises: Should India unilaterally launch aerial strikes on terrorist hideouts in Pakistan, just as the US does when its troops in Afghanistan are attacked? Such unilateral aerial attacks won't solve the problem. Instead, an international framework for all ground-level attacks is needed. Pakistanis must feel they are a part of an international and regional consortium. Once they're in, anti-terror allies from America to Asia can launch activities and say, ”The Pakistanis are part of it”--even if in reality they may not be.

Of course, infecting every good idea is that the Pakistan intelligence service is penetrated by jihadis, and the Pakistani government itself doesn’t know how deeply it has been infiltrated. 

Long Term Objectives of the Jihadis?

What do they want? First, jihadis wish to establish a Taliban-like regime characterized by suppression of minorities and women in all Muslim countries or regions. After that, they want to governmentally crumble 21 Arab countries, 52 Muslim states and recreate a worldwide Caliphate that will bury centuries of progress in human rights, including the rights obtained by Muslims. These forces crave the use of weapons of mass destruction to achieve their goals. In Jihadi ideology, there is no such thing as ”mutually assured destruction” because in the view of a suicide bomber, real life is not here, it is “on the other side.” Devastating retaliation is okay, even desirable.

How can the war against future jihad be won?

India has not supported the campaign in Iraq, and is not present in Afghanistan, and yet it is targeted by jihadis. It’s the same with Russia, countries in Europe, and the Arab world. So, the planet needs an international coalition against jihadis that would go across ideology, regions and cultures.

Most important, the murders of Mumbai are not an attack against India as much as a new moral and psychological 9/11 for the entire world. What has happened in that city will and can happen in all cities. Even if all jihadis in the Mumbai attack have been captured or killed, that Jihadi infantry model is now a living replicable model. International action is needed to fight this threat in the same way Nazism and Fascism were fought. But can the world rise to the challenge?

Cutting Edge Terrorism Analyst Walid Phares is the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a FOX-TV commentator and author of The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad.

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