Mumbai is susceptible to airborne attacks by terrorists, who are becoming innovative in their means and actions, warns a government-appointed probe panel set up after the 26/11 terror strikes.
The R.D. Pradhan committee, formed to probe individual and systematic lapses which led to the attacks and the manner in which the 60-hour siege was handled, has slammed Maharashtra state's security establishment for the "total confusion" in processing intelligence alerts about a possible attack.
IANS has a copy of the 90-page probe report, written by former home secretary R.D. Pradhan and former civil servant V. Balachandran. The committee was formed after 10 heavily armed Pakistani terrorists launched simultaneous multiple attacks in Mumbai last November that brought the state government to its knees.
The Maharashtra government last week tabled the report in the Nagpur session of the state assembly, but it has not been made public yet. The report points to non-adherence to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) during the Nov 26-29, 2008, terror siege. The assault claimed the lives of 166 people, including 26 foreigners, and injured 244 others.
"One should not overlook the possibility of airborne attacks on targets in the city in future," the report says in a bold and underlined paragraph in its final observations.
"With increasing use of helicopters by the government as well as non-official parties, one may conceive a helicopter being taken over," the probe panel has warned.
Without any pin-pointed reference if the threat was based on a specific intelligence input, the panel has recommended that the matter be taken up for study and necessary aviation security measures worked out.
The committee has appreciated the speed and urgency shown by the Mumbai police machinery in reacting to the unfolding attacks but has pointed out that this was as "they usually respond to a law and order situation" and not to an attack by well-trained terrorists.
Expressing concern, the report categorically says that the police had no training or experience to undertake a war-like operation and counter a sophisticated attack despite many actionable intelligence inputs about a seaborne terror strike.
It has found "lack of intelligent appreciation of threats, handling of intelligence, maintaining high degree of efficiency and certainly lack of overt and visible leadership in carrying out operations to face multi-targeted attacks".
The report further states that intelligence reports from Aug 7, 2006, had indicated that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit was making preparations to infiltrate suicide squads into India by the sea route.
"Six alerts were on the possibility of seaborne attacks, 11 were on multiple and simultaneous attacks and three were on fidayeen attacks," the report seen by IANS states.
The Mumbai police have already admitted there were lapses in the way they dealt with the attacks.
A proper analysis of these inputs would have revealed a "strong indication" of the 26/11 attacks but the existing mechanism to make such an overall assessment was "inadequate", the report says.
The committee has found that all intelligence inputs are "mechanically" forwarded to operational units and that there was "total confusion in the processing of intelligence alerts at the level of the state government".
Apart from mishandling of intelligence inputs, the panel has found that the city police were ill-prepared and ill-equipped to counter an attack by well-trained terrorists.
Coming down heavily on the hotel managements for ignoring specific security warnings, a government-appointed probe panel set up after the 26/11 terror strikes has said that the lack of police presence outside the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels allowed heavily-armed Pakistani terrorists to walk in rather smoothly.
The two hotels and the Leopold Cafe - the worst-hit sites during the terror strikes last year - in south Mumbai were ill-prepared to thwart the attack despite their managements being informed about specific intelligence warnings that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was planning to target them, says the report of the R.D. Pradhan probe committee.
The three sites were specifically named in different intelligence tip-offs, the panel found during its investigations.
The hotel managements ignored the warnings and didn't take proper security measures as advised by the police, it says.
"In this context, the committee is constrained to observe that tragically, the Taj and the Oberoi managements did not implement certain important security advice given by (police) because of their own policy perspective for the hospitality industry," states the report.
IANS has accessed a copy of the 90-page probe report, written up by former home secretary and Arunachal Pradesh governor R.D. Pradhan and former civil servant V. Balachandran.
The report notes with concern that a police picket near the Taj Mahal hotel was removed 43 days before Nov 26, 2008, when 10 terrorists sneaked into Mumbai via the sea route and held guests at the two hotels hostage during a 60-hour carnage in the city which left 166 people dead and brought the state government to its knees.
Police had kept a two-man picket at the entrance of the hotel but it was withdrawn Oct 13, the report says, pointing out that the officer in charge of the Colaba police station had taken it off it without informing his seniors.
Even mobile police were not in the vicinity when the attack was launched.
"Thus, on 26/11, when the two terrorists walked inside the Taj into the lobby, there was no picket or mobile police... In other words, there was no police presence in front or around the Taj when two terrorists entered from two different directions."
"Incidents like the (attack on) the Taj where the police picket was removed would not have occurred" if there was a proper mechanism to decide whether an alert issued earlier should be downgraded or removed, the report points out.
An Intelligence Bureau (IB) alert was received Sep 24, 2008, that the LeT was showing interest in certain targets like the Taj Mahal hotel. Prior to that, an alert dated Aug 9, 2008, indicated that possible bomb attacks were being planned to target the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, as also the World Trade Centre that is also in south Mumbai.
Earlier on June 26, 2008, an input had alerted that Leopold Cafe was mentioned as one of the sites for attacks.
The report said the police visited these places and reviewed the security measures and conveyed similar warnings to other hotels, malls and important commercial establishments in south Mumbai.
Police instructed the Taj Mahal hotel to stop entry from the vulnerable Northcote (sic) Gate through which two terrorists entered. The management was also asked to have a single point entry to the hotel and install and use doorframe metal detectors, according to the report.
A police team also met manager Karambir Kang but the hotel authorities ignored all these warnings, the report, seen by IANS, says.
There were three intelligence alerts from the IB about the possibility of an attack on a Jewish centre. But the alerts had not specifically mentioned about Nariman House housing a Jewish centre, the report says.
Nobody had an idea that there was a Jewish sect residing in Nariman House, it adds.
Even a police branch in charge of foreigners' division didn't know about it or "for that matter not even the local Israeli Consulate had any idea that there was a Jewish sect", the report says.
Why Police Were Lame Duck Targets for 26/11 Attackers
Lack of weapons and training created a "serious disability" within the Mumbai police to fight well-equipped and trained terrorists like those who ravaged India's financial capital last year, says a government appointed probe panel formed after the 26/11 terror strikes.
Police arms were "no match to the superior fire power of the (Pakistani) terrorists, who carried AK-47 assault rifles, pistols, hand grenades, bags of eight kilograms of RDX, sophisticated cell phones and commando-wear clothing", says the report of the R.D. Pradhan probe committee.
In a scathing indictment, the 90-page report says some policemen, armed with only lathis, rushed headlong to face the terrorists who were lobbing hand grenades.
"The police vehicles (rushed to fight the terrorists) were only equipped with riot gear of 'lathis' (sticks), gas guns and .303 rifles."
The policemen were in their usual gear with no reinforcements and were not prepared for the 60-hour siege that claimed 166 lives, including those of 26 foreigners.
Mumbai was savaged by a terror trauma that started on the night on Nov 26, 2008 when 10 terrorists who came by boat from Pakistan sneaked into the commercial megalopolis and began a siege that ended only on the afternoon of Nov 28 after commandoes of the National Security Guard took over from the state police.
Nine of the 10 terrorists gunned down and India was brought to its knees as horrified citizens watched the masked gunmen run riot.
IANS has accessed the probe report, written up by former home secretary and Arunachal Pradesh governor R.D. Pradhan and former civil servant V. Balachandran. The Maharashtra government has tabled the report in the state assembly but it has not been made public. It points to non-adherence to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) during the terror siege.
The probe panel has slammed the state government and police for not preventing the attacks despite intelligence warnings about specific targets and above all, has criticized the authorities for not providing adequate arms and training to the police force.
"Mumbai police did not have adequate protective gear like good bulletproof vests to fight the terrorists," says the report.
Hemant Karkare, the then Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief, was among the top police officers killed by the terrorists. It has been alleged in a court that Karkare would not have been dead but for his defective apron-like bulletproof jacket that left his shoulders exposed.
The panel was "aghast to find the state police ill-equipped and with very little perception of new threats faced by the country."
"We were shown bullet proof jackets of 1993 vintage, weighing 10 to 12 kg. How can anyone resist terrorists with such heavy weight?" the panel asks.
The police's elite Quick Response Team (QRT), which comprises eight officers and 48 men and had been set up specially to handle emergency situations, had received "no actual simulated training in facing terrorist attacks and hostage rescue".
The report quotes an unnamed expert as saying that "the organizational structure and training curriculum of the QRT were totally inadequate".
"QRT did not do any firing since September 2007 due to the shortage of ammunition although they are (bound) to carry out firing practice every fourth day," states the report, quoting Maharashtra's acting police chief A.N. Roy.
The police modernization policies and purchase of arms and ammunition were blocked by red tape, it says, adding the delay in approving a draft weapons policy recommending the replacement of outdated arms with sophisticated ones has been inordinately delayed.
The delay has led to a surge in costs. In 2007, the costs were estimated at Rs.168 crore and in 2008, this had increased to Rs.210 crore.
The annual requirement of arms and ammunition in the state police has also shot up with the induction of 33,000 personnel at various levels.
"This has created serious shortage of arms and ammunition for Maharashtra Police. It needs to be sorted out urgently rather than prolonging the correspondence," the report states.
"The agility with which the terrorists moved about and operated their weapons hold many lessons. The police must be provided with equipment and the means to challenge (sic) any attacks in future," the report adds.