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Mumbai 26/11 terror attack could have been stopped


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Central Intelligence agencies, 10 days prior to the terror attack had credible intelligence about a possible terror attack in Mumbai by Pakistani-based terrorists supported by Pakistan’s ISI.

First, on November 18, 2008, RAW intercepted a satellite phone conversation that a hotel at the Gateway of India would be targeted by a group of terrorists.

Second, on November 19, 2008, IB receives intelligence that a boat (Al Husaini) with terrorists had set sail to attack Mumbai. The IB had even received input about the probable mobile numbers that could be used by the terrorists. 

Third, on November 21, 2008, the naval authorities, spotted the boat in Pakistani waters, and the information was escalated to the Internal Security Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

In his speech in the Indian Parliament, P Chidambaram who was the Union Home Minister stated that Intelligence regarding a suspected LeT vessel attempting to infiltrate through the sea route was shared with the Director General, of the Coast Guard, and the Principal Director, of the Naval Intelligence.

The Coast Guard made a serious effort, including deploying vessels and aircraft, to locate the suspect vessel, but was not successful. The Navy found that the coordinates of the vessel, as reported, placed it well within the territorial waters of Pakistan. Nevertheless, the Navy had committed several surface units and aircraft in the zone during the period on November 19-20, 2008.

In the absence of further inputs or information from the agencies concerned, the Navy concluded that no further action could be taken on the basis of the available information.

However, the Al Husaini boat was not intercepted. Subsequently, terrorists then boarded and took over the M.V. Kuber which was a fishing trawler. From the M.V. Kuber closer to Mumbai, they got into a dinghy on November 26, 2008.

The inflatable dinghy used by the terrorists after abandoning M.V. Kuber had an outboard engine manufactured by Yamaha Motor Corporation, Japan. The investigation revealed that the engine was shipped to a firm called Business & Engineering Trends in Pakistan with the address: 24, Habibulla Road, Off Davis Road, Lahore, Pakistan.

If a hostile element has been spotted, in normal security protocols surveillance continues until a hostile element is spotted. But shockingly, the hunt for the hostile Al Husaini boat stops after 48 hours. The Navy concluded that no further action could be taken on the basis of the available information.

On November 24, 2008, RAW intercepts another conversation. In this conversation on a possible terror attack, the hotels’ Taj and Trident were mentioned. The terrorists were focused on these two hotels, one near Gateway of India and the other at Nariman Point.

Shockingly, no senior member of the Internal Security Department of the MHA was there to receive the input of RAW. Former bureaucrat RVS Mani was sent to Lucknow to attend to a case and most of the Internal Security Department Staff of MHA left to be present in Pakistan on November 25, 2008.

The presence of ISD staff in Pakistan is suspicious and a planned attempt to keep the Indian Internal Security department in the dark.

The delegates arrived on November 25, 2008, and were to leave on November 26, 2008, but instead, they left on November 27, 2008. Their stay was extended because their planned meeting schedule was altered and their meeting with the Pakistan Minister of Interior Rehman Malik was postponed to November 26, 2008, instead of November 25, 2008. The postponement of the meeting was agreed to by the majority of the Indian delegates.

There is a settled protocol for each delegation in the MHA. But in 2008 HS Level Talks an Additional Secretary of Border Management (AS – BM) who is not in the protocol was included at the behest of some political level. The AS ( BM) by virtue of being an Additional Secretary was senior to all officers other than the home secretary who were of Joint Secretary level and below. He defacto became No 2 in the delegation.

Now on 25.11.2008 Syed Kamal Shah Pakistan’s interior secretary left the agenda unfinished. He offered to extend the talks by one day. He also informed Rehman Malik Interior Minister had given an appointment at 3 PM on 26.11.2008. Now, two agency officers suggested to Home Secretary not to accept the extension. They advised him of a lurking danger. The Additional Secretary who was senior and No 2 suggested to the Home Secretary to accept the offer of extension by one day. The two agencies’ officers returned by commercial flight on 26.11.2008 in the morning after they could not prevail upon the Home Secretary.

Talking of commercial flights. Generally travel to Pakistan is only by commercial flight. Our official aircraft are avoided. An unwritten rule. But in this case of the Internal Security Department visit to Pakistan, it was BSF Embraer Aircraft at the behest of the Additional Secretary who suggested the idea.

Actually, for some officers, such an act is akin to suicide to allow international and other agencies officers access the BSF Embraer flight to Pakistan.

An IB report, based on Ajmal Kasab’s interrogation and confession revealed that the 10 terrorists were handpicked from a larger group and trained at various locations inside Pakistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. The training was also held at Muridke, Mansehra, Muzaffarabad, Azizabad, and Paanch Teni.

Kasab also confessed that they got local help. The charge sheet filed had no mention of David Headley, who was helped in his recce by Rahul Bhatt, son of Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, now in prison in the US and who has confessed to laying the foundation for 26/11 by taking detailed videos of the Taj and Trident/Oberoi hotels where he checked in as a guest, as well as other targets like Chabad House.

It was only after David Headley was arrested by the FBI, that he was charged separately by Mumbai Police for allegedly conducting a recce of targets hit by Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in the metropolis in last year’s audacious attacks.

The decision to file a supplementary charge sheet in the 26/11 case comes after the FBI approached the Chicago court in the US and gave details about the reconnaissance missions carried out by an American national at the behest of Lashkar.

During his multiple visits to India, Headley was accused of taking pictures and making videotapes of various places, including those targeted on 26/11 by terrorists belonging to LeT.

After each trip Headley undertook to India between September 2006 and July 2008, he is believed to have returned to Pakistan, met other co-conspirators, and provided them with photographs, videos, and oral descriptions of various locations.

But, Headley’s name did not feature in the charge sheet filed by Mumbai police in connection with the terror attacks. 

The charges filed in the Federal Court in Chicago allege that Headley conducted extensive surveillance of targets in Mumbai for more than two years preceding the November 26, 2008, terrorist attack. It was only then that the Indian authorities acted against the involvement of David Headley in the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks.

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