India: Who are the militants who attacked Mumbai?

As Indian commandos finish their operations against the gunmen who killed at least 143 people, focus turns to the assailants' identity.

As Indian commandos finish their operations against the gunmen who killed at least 143 people, focus turns to the assailants' identity.

Indian forces entered the closing stages of their operations against the militants who attacked Mumbai (Bombay) Wednesday, but the identity of the militants, which could have ramifications on India-Pakistan relations, remains unclear.

The Associated Press reports that Indian commandos on Friday secured the Oberoi Hotel, one of the sites targeted by gunmen in Mumbai Wednesday in a series of attacks that left at least 143 dead and 288 injured. The AP also writes that the commandos were continuing operations to retake the Taj Mahal Hotel and a Jewish outreach center on Friday.

While explosions and gunfire continued intermittently at the elegant Taj Mahal hotel Friday afternoon, officials said commandos had killed the two last gunmen inside the nearby Oberoi.
"The hotel is under our control," J.K. Dutt, director general of India's elite National Security Guard commando unit, told reporters, adding that 24 bodies had been found. Dozens of people -- including a man clutching a baby -- had been evacuated from Oberoi earlier Friday.

CNN offers a summary of what is known about the attacks on their website.

Even as the attacks were unfolding, speculation quickly turned to the identity of the attackers. The Los Angelese Times reports that the Indian government put the blame for the attacks on foreign elements, which it has often used to refer to Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on national television Thursday, asserting that the organizers of the attacks were "based outside the country."
In what was seen as a thinly veiled indictment of Pakistan, he warned India's neighbors that "the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated." Other government officials were quoted in Indian media alleging that the squads of gunmen had charged ashore from rubber boats that fanned out from an unidentified mother ship.
In response, Pakistan's defense minister condemned the Mumbai attacks and warned India to refrain from accusing its longtime rival of involvement. And some security experts warned that India has plenty of home-grown extremists who could be behind the violence.

The Hindu reports that police say that three captured gunmen claimed to be members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group, although this report has yet to be verified by a second source.

The Washington Post writes that US counterterrorism experts say the attacks appear to be well coordinated, indicating that the attackers received foreign terrorist training and support.

"This is a new, horrific milestone in the global jihad," said Bruce Riedel, a former South Asia analyst for the CIA and National Security Council and author of the book "The Search for Al Qaeda." "No indigenous Indian group has this level of capability. The goal is to damage the symbol of India's economic renaissance, undermine investor confidence and provoke an India-Pakistani crisis." ...
Television footage showed the assailants carrying automatic rifles and backpacks filled with ammunition and grenades. Analysts said the fact that the gunmen quickly fanned across the city and were able to hold off Indian security forces over three days suggested that they had received training at organized camps.
"What is striking about this is a fair amount of planning had to go into this type of attack," said Roger W. Cressey, a former White House counterterrorism official in the Clinton and Bush administrations. "This is not a seat-of-the-pants operation. This group had to receive some training or support from professionals in the terrorism business."

But The New York Times writes that the gunmen could easily be members of India's Muslim minority, 13.4 percent of India's population of 1.13 billion, given the longstanding Muslim-Hindu tensions in the country.

"There are a lot of very, very angry Muslims in India," [Christine Fair, senior political scientist and a South Asia expert at the RAND Corporation,] said. "The economic disparities are startling and India has been very slow to publicly embrace its rising Muslim problem. You cannot put lipstick on this pig. This is a major domestic political challenge for India.
"The public political face of India says, 'Our Muslims have not been radicalized,' she said. "But the Indian intelligence apparatus knows that's not true. India's Muslim communities are being sucked into the global landscape of Islamist jihad."
"Indians will have a strong incentive to link this to Al Qaeda," she said. "But this is a domestic issue. This is not India's 9/11."

Similarly, The Guardian reports that the gunmen were more likely to be homegrown Indian terrorists, rather than foreigners.

A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed the operation. The name indicates a local group - the Deccan is the central Indian plateau - and a probable link to the Indian Mujahideen who started a bloody bombing campaign a year ago.
It is this group, too, that threatened the people of Mumbai with "deadly attacks" two months ago and has credibly claimed responsibility for the series of attacks in recent months. ...
Most analysts believe the Deccan Mujahideen is a loose and fragmented movement of Indian Muslims, often young and well-educated. A similar phenomenon has been seen from Indonesia to Morocco.

Groundviews, a citizen journalism blog in Sri Lanka, sees parallels between the Mumbai attacks and the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka, and warns India to not "go down the path we have taken."

To see what is happening in India today is to look in the rear view mirror of what we did wrong in Sri Lanka. When we suffered terrorist attacks, we blamed it on foreign interference, namely India. India does the same today: the Prime Minister in a televised message blamed a "group based outside the country". Both countries have failed to realize that the root of the problem is not outside our shores; the problem lies within. Messages from the Indian public are scrolled continuously on NDTV, most of them blaming the government for inadequate security and calling for a severe crackdown on terrorism (as if they weren't already trying all this time). Not one message asked the question: "what drove these Indians to do this to other Indians?" ...
So here's a word of advice from a Sri Lankan to our big neighbour. Don't go down the path we have taken. Don't be tempted to sacrifice the freedom of another for your own safety. Be smarter than us. Look within and find the disease that is causing this fever called terrorism. For now, your terrorists seem to be ad hoc groups of lethal young men. With every attack in your country a new terrorist group with a new label takes credit. That's how it starts. The day will come when a determined and motivated leader manages to coalesce the many fingers of extremism into a hard-hitting fist, with an ideology as compelling as it is evil. When that happens, you will pay a price in blood and sorrow for generations to come. We know this because we have seen it all before.
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