Thursday, May 29, 2014

Report of the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks


The following is from my final project for a massive open online class I was taking under Universiteit Leiden titled Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory and Practice, conducted by Professor Edwin Bakker.

The Mumbai Attacks of 2008 were a series of alleged terrorist attacks across the Indian capital city of the state of Maharashtra, Mumbai, lasting a total of four days from the 26th of November till the 29th. The attack was initiated by members of the Pakistan-based Islamist Jihadist organization Lashkar-e-Taiyeba vying to establish an Islamic State across the South Asian region.

The reported members involved in the 2008 terror attacks are: Ajmal Kasab, Abdul Rehman, Abdul Rahman Chhota, Abu Ali, Fahad Ullah, Ismail Khan, Babar Imran, Abu Umar, and Abu Sohrab. Out of the ten, only Ajmal Kasab was captured alive. The remainder nine were killed off by Indian forces.


The attacks targeted Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Oberoi Trident Hotel, Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, Nariman House Jewish community center, Leopold Cafe along with a few other places across Mumbai, claiming the lives of more than a hundred and fifty people, wounding as many as around three hundred.

On the 25th of February, 2009, Ajmal Kasab was charged with counts of waging war against India, terrorism, murdering seven and abetting the murder of one-hundred-fifty-nine, conspiracy, kidnapping, causing explosions, illegal use of arms, breach of the Railways Act, robbery, along with over seventy other offences. He was tried, convicted and awarded the death sentence for his crimes, later executed by hanging.


According to the twelve elements of Alex Schmid, the 2008 Mumbai Attacks can be classified as terrorism since:
  1. There were obvious civilian casualties in almost all of the places targeted by the attacks.
    For example, casualties at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus were mostly non-combatants, including children. All of the victims in Oberoi Trident Hotel, and Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel were hotel staff and guests.
    None of these targets were guilty of anything the assailants were fighting against. They were merely innocent bystanders. It is clear that the brunt of the attackers' displeasure were not ultimately to be bore by them;
    rather they were a message deployed to incite terror.
    Also, none of the targeted areas can be classified as regions of conflict. They were essentially civilian populated complexes such as hotels, train stations, hospitals and cafes.
  2. Ajmal Kasab, one of the actors involved in the 2008 Mumbai Attacks was convicted of murder and kidnapping. The Wikipedia entry of the list of casualties of the 2008 Mumbai Attacks states, “terrorists used AK-47 rifles to shoot recklessly and threw grenades everywhere in the [Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus] station”
    The series of events of the 2008 Mumbai Attacks was indiscriminate as many women and children were killed without consideration. Patients of the Cama Hospital were intended targets. It was brutal in nature and propagated fear and chaos.
  3. The initiators were physically and psychologically prepared for the acts, indoctrinated with extremist Islamic propaganda and receiving military-level training along with military-grade weapon and technology forming well-organized squadrons with ranks and hierarchies behind them.
  4. The perpetrators of the attack were affiliated to Lashkar-e-Taiyeba, a group infamous for supporting a radical Islamist agenda through acts of violence and terrorism based in Pakistan, hence transnational connections, pushing the propaganda of forging a puritan Islamic State under a fundamentalist Sharia Constitution.
    Therefore, it is obvious that the attacks were initiated to promote the Lashkar-e-Taiyeba's ideology of extremist Islam, creating an environment of fear to exhibit their clout and gravity, pressuring opposing forces to give in to the terror and submit to the group's demands.
  5. It is blatant that most, if not all, of the above mentioned points are in compliance to the twelve elements mentioned by Alex Schmid to classify a series of events as an act of terrorism and thus it can be concluded that the 2008 Mumbai Attacks was indeed such an act.

Professor Alex Schmid defines terrorism with the following twelve elements:
  1. Terrorism refers, on the one hand, to a doctrine about the presumed effectiveness of a special form or tactic of fear-generating, coercive political violence and, on the other hand, to a conspiratorial practice of calculated, demonstrative, direct violent action without legal or moral restraints, targeting mainly civilians and non-combatants, performed for its propagandistic and psychological effects on various audiences and parties
  2. Terrorism as a tactic is employed in three main contexts:
    (i) illegal state repression,
    (ii) propagandistic agitation by non-state actors in times of peace or outside zones of conflict
    (iii) as an illicit tactic of irregular warfare employed by state- and non-state actors
  3. The physical violence or threat thereof employed by terrorist actors involves single-phase acts of lethal violence (such as bombings and armed assaults), dual-phased life-threatening incidents (like kidnapping, hijacking and other forms of hostage-taking for coercive bargaining) as well as multi-phased sequences of actions (such as in ‘disappearances’ involving kidnapping, secret detention, torture and murder)
  4. The publicized terrorist victimization initiates threat-based communication processes whereby, on the one hand, conditional demands are made to individuals, groups, governments, societies or sections thereof, and, on the other hand, the support of specific constituencies (based on ties of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation and the like) is sought by the terrorist perpetrators
  5. At the origin of terrorism stands terror – instilled fear, dread, panic or mere anxiety – spread among those identifying, or sharing similarities, with the direct victims, generated by some of the modalities of the terrorist act – its shocking brutality, lack of discrimination, dramatic or symbolic quality and disregard of the rules of warfare and the rules of punishment
  6. The main direct victims of terrorist attacks are in general not any armed forces but are usually civilians, non-combatants or other innocent and defenseless persons who bear no direct responsibility for the conflict that gave rise to acts of terrorism
  7. The direct victims are not the ultimate target (as in a classical assassination where victim and target coincide) but serve as message generators, more or less unwittingly helped by the news values of the mass media, to reach various audiences and conflict parties that identify either with the victims’ plight or the terrorists’ professed cause
  8. Sources of terrorist violence can be individual perpetrators, small groups, diffuse transnational networks as well as state actors or state-sponsored clandestine agents (such as death squads and hit teams)
  9. While showing similarities with methods employed by organized crime as well as those found in war crimes, terrorist violence is predominantly political – usually in its motivation while always in its societal repercussions
  10. The immediate intent of acts of terrorism is to terrorize, intimidate, antagonize, disorientate, destabilize, coerce, compel, demoralize or provoke a target population or conflict party in the hope of achieving from the resulting insecurity a favorable power outcome, e.g. obtaining publicity, extorting ransom money, submission to terrorist demands and/or mobilizing or immobilizing sectors of the public
  11. The motivations to engage in terrorism cover a broad range, including redress for alleged grievances, personal or vicarious revenge, collective punishment, revolution, national liberation and the promotion of diverse ideological, political, social, national or religious causes and objectives
  12. Acts of terrorism rarely stand alone but form part of a campaign of violence which alone can, due to the serial character of acts of violence and threats of more to come, create a pervasive climate of fear that enables the terrorists to manipulate the political process



–– Fahim Ferdous Promi

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