The Mumbai Attacks: More Than Meets the Eye

Published on Foreign Policy Journal, by Jeremy R. Hammond, December 4, 2008.

… Details have emerged regarding who was responsible for the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, with the evidence pointing to the Pakistani-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). But the trail doesn’t end there.

Indications of a coming attack were reportedly received by intelligence agencies well in advance. US signals intelligence (SIGINT) picked up a spike in “chatter” indicating something was brewing, which was supported by information from assets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some of the information that was received by US intelligence was passed on to India as early as September.

The details were specific. The CIA station chief in Delhi reportedly met with his counterpart at India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), to pass on intelligence that LeT was planning a major attack that would come from the sea …

… Maulana Masood Azhar is the head of Jaish-e-Mohammed, and is also wanted by Interpol. Like LeT, JeM is said to have close links with the ISI, which has used the groups to wage a proxy war against Indian forces in Kashmir.

Like Hafiz Saeed, Azhar was numbered among the veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war. He was educated at Jamia Binoria, a madrassa (religious school) in Karachi that also served as a recruitment center for the mujahedeen.

He later became a leader of Karkat-ul-Mujahideen, a Pakistani militant group, and was captured by India in Kashmir in 1994. He was tried and acquitted, but spent six years in jail before being freed in exchange for the release of the crew and passengers of a hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 1999. He formed JeM after returning to Pakistan.

Omar Saeed Sheikh was also caught and imprisoned by India for involvement in that hijacking, and was likewise released in exchange for the hostages. Like Azhar, Omar Seikh is reported to have close links to the ISI and, according to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, was also an agent of MI6, Britain’s spy agency, which sent him to engage in operations in the Balkans.

Relations between India and Pakistan also reached a crisis point in December 2001, when gunmen attacked the Indian parliament. JeM and Let were held responsible for that attack as well, and both countries amassed troops on the border, a situation that led to fears of war between two nuclear-armed countries. The U.S. helped mediate an end to the crisis, pressuring Pakistan to crack down on militant groups and setting in motion the plan to assist India with its nuclear program that was finally realized this year.

LeT was banned in Pakistan in 2002 following the attack on the Indian parliament, but remained active in the country nevertheless. The group has denied responsibility for the attacks in Mumbai last week.

Pakistan has on one hand said it would formulate a response to India’s request to turn over the 20 wanted men, and on the other hand indicated it would not do so, insisting that the men are either not in Pakistan or that they have been under Pakistani surveillance and no indication seen that they were in any way involved.

While the evidence strongly points to LeT and a network of associates affiliated with the group or with each other, that web also includes the CIA and MI6. One early report said that some of the Mumbai terrorists were, like Rashid Rauf, British nationals. This was picked up by numerous press accounts around the globe, but the Indian government official this information was attributed to denied ever having said such a thing.

Theories that this was a false flag operation have already begun to spread around the internet, with varying culprits and motives. Whatever the truth is, what is clear from the facts one is able to piece together from media accounts is that there is more to the Mumbai attacks than meets the eye. (full long text).

(Jeremy R. Hammond is the editor of Foreign Policy Journal, a website dedicated to provide news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S. foreign policy from outside of the standard framework offered by government officials and the mainstream corporate media, particularly with regard to the “war on terrorism” and events in the Middle East. He has written for numerous other online publications. You can contact him by e-mail).

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