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New template for terror?

Mumbai attacks' sophistication shows need for new approach to defenses, experts say.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / December 3, 2008

Attack Aftermath: Inspector Subhash Raval, center, checked documents of fishermen in the Indian town of Porbander on Tuesday. Militants are suspected of using the port to reach Mumbai.

ajit solanki/ap

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New Delhi

Sixty hours in Mumbai have begun to change the calculus of global terrorism.

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New reports suggest that both Indian and American intelligence agencies had foreseen the threat to Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Yet the manner of the attack – with 10 heavily armed, highly trained fighters clinically fanning out across the city – meant that no "police force anywhere would have been prepared to counter this type of operation," says Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism analyst at Georgetown University in Washington.

Armed sieges are not a new terrorist tactic, but never before has one been used to such effect. Some experts suggest this could be the most sophisticated terrorist attack since 9/11. Now, other militants might consider copycat operations – and the world's cities will have to be ready for them.

"It was not so much of a success in terms of people killed – it was more the publicity they got for three days, and their ability to project the Indian state ... as helpless," says B. Raman, former head of counterterrorism for Indian top intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). "Others will want to repeat it," he predicts.

Indians' anger toward their government continued to mount Tuesday as several reports indicated that there was specific intelligence pointing to an attack on Mumbai from the sea – the way the terrorists entered the city.

On Sept. 18 and 24, RAW intercepted two satellite phone calls in which a member of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba discussed an operation that would attack Mumbai by boat, according to the Hindustan Times, an Indian newspaper. One call mentioned the Taj Mahal Hotel, where the last fighter was killed Saturday.

Moreover, a US counterterrorism official told CNN Tuesday that "the United States warned the Indian government about a potential maritime attack against Mumbai at least a month before last week's massacre in Mumbai."

President Bush is diverting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels this week to visit India. She is expected to arrive in New Delhi Wednesday.

India now feels confident it has established a link between the attackers and elements in Pakistan, perhaps Lashkar-e-Taiba. India is now demanding that Pakistan extradite 20 people – including the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba – which India's foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, called a "fugitive from Indian law." Pakistan is considering the request.

Significantly, Mr. Mukherjee says India is not currently considering the use of force against Pakistan. US officials were concerned that India might deploy more troops to its northern border, as it did after an attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001. Pakistan would have countered by pulling troops away from the fight against militants on the Afghan border.

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