November 30, 2008 2:44:16 am
The most brazen and longest terror attack on India has left several red faces in the government with facts emerging that not only was there advance intelligence about this attack but even the time to have possibly thwarted it. But what happened, instead, was a case of competitive mistrust in the entire security establishment leading to a catastrophic misjudgement.
The Sunday Express has learnt that on November 19, just about a week before the attack, one of the intelligence agencies had circulated “top secret” information on the basis of an intercept the previous day that an attack had been planned from sea on Mumbai and would be effected very soon. While November 26 was not mentioned as a precise date, sources said, another date before the day of the attack was specified. It also said the terrorists could probably come by an Indian fishing trawler.
This input was passed on for further analysis to the National Security Council Secretariat and Joint Intelligence Council. Subsequently, this was shared with the Navy and the Coast Guard. Also, it was sent in the form of an advisory to Maharashtra. However, somewhere through the entire process, the seriousness and authenticity of the input were interpreted differently by different agencies. State agencies now claim such alerts had become a regular feature in recent months which, too, is arguably correct in many respects. Some have argued that the input was not specific enough and only mentioned the “possibility” of a trawler being used.
If this was not enough, preliminary investigations have revealed that the terrorists stayed on the Kuber for a few days and were in Indian territorial waters for at least 72 hours. While this is being verified, it has now been established that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai had left from the Azizabad area of Karachi on November 22-23.
Contrary to initial suspicion that they had “compromised” the Ukrainian crew of a merchant ship to enter Indian waters, it is now believed that the terrorists boarded a Pakistani vessel Al-Hussaini to reach close to Indian territorial waters near the Gujarat coast. Here onwards, the details are still hazy though it is certain that Indian trawler Kuber had been under observation for this purpose.
As of now, sources said, the assumption is that Kuber was hijacked possibly in Pakistani waters as the boat seemed to have been making short forays across possibly in search of better catch or some other purpose ¿ a regular Indo-Pak feature that has led to arrests of many fishermen off the Gujarat coast. Having noted this, the terrorists went for the trawler, hijacked it and apparently moved four members of the crew into the Al Hussaini and killed them there.
One member of the Indian crew, Amarsinh Solanki, was held hostage by the terrorists as a cover to avoid detection by Indian ships. He was later decapitated, as reported by The Indian Express today. Thereafter, the terrorists stayed in the trawler until the evening of November 26, moving along the Porbandar coast towards Mumbai. This period, perhaps, saw limited or no communication between handlers and associates already present in Mumbai.
In all this while, an intelligence intercept of a conversation on November 18, from Karachi to Mumbai saying “see you” on a date few days from then was circulated, analysed, kept and dismissed as routine by police and Coast Guard who are tired of being flooded with such inputs. Several such inputs do turn out to be inaccurate. So, at some point, the analysis and classification of information went faulty leading to a misinterpretation with the worst ever consequences.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is said to be extremely upset with these developments as he now tries to build international pressure on Pakistan. Today he held a meeting with three Service chiefs where the National Security Advisor briefed them on the situation. The Armed Forces have been told to keep their vigil but at the same time avoid any escalatory situation along the Indo-Pak border.
Washington too is extremely concerned as it has always in its military planning on this region anticipated an incident of this sort to provoke a conflict. Today, US President-elect Barack Obama spoke to Singh on the blasts and discussed the situation while expressing condolences.
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