It’s here: The age of suicide fighters, global jihad

The clean-shaven, lithe young men ravaging Mumbai are suicide fighters — planned, armed and committed for long, hard-fought battles — not the shadowy hit-and-run suicide bombers with which India is so familiar.

The detonation of two taxis on Thursday night seemed only a diversion: The real teeth of the attack lay in small teams of highly trained commando-like fighters capturing large buildings, taking hostages and preparing for a long siege.

By Amit Baruah and Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times

The Mumbai terror strikes fit neatly into the paradigm of jihad international. For the first time, the targets are no longer just random markets or innocent Indians, but Westerners: Americans, Britons, Israelis and Australians.

Mumbai 26/11, said a senior Indian intelligence official, was executed by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiyyabba, a part of the larger global jihadi machine. Luxury hotels where westerners stay have become a popular target – assuring deeper fear and global publicity.

Hotels are now a choice jihadi target, said terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna. That’s how terrorists struck at the Marriot in Islamabad in September, the heavily guarded Serena Hotel in Kabul in January.

Islamic Jihad militants carry a Qassam rocket in Khan Yunis. ...
Islamic Jihad militants carry a Qassam rocket in Khan Yunis. Israel has reacted to militant rocket fire by again sealing off the Gaza Strip, where officials said the territory’s sole power plant was forced to shut down because of the crippling blockade.(AFP/Said Khatib)

The switch from anonymous bombing or suicide bombing may be a product of three separate developments within the Islamicist terrorist system:

· Polls have shown a growing discontent about suicide bombings among mainstream Muslims, with Islamic clerics pointing to strong Quranic injunctions.

· Two, roadblocks, regular inspections and the difficulties in getting a car have made suicide bombs difficult. A direct frontal attack on a hotel entrace is much easier.

· “Bomb fatigue” undermines the publicity need that terrorist organizations live off. Long, bloody sieges, however, are perfect for sustained public attention and headline-grabbing.

A number of terrorist groups already have this ingrained in their modus operandi. The Abu Sayyaf group of the Philippines, for example, eschews suicide bombing but has a long record of assaulting tourist resorts, cruise ships and shopping malls.

The expertise that puts suicide fighters into action is not available to India’s home-grown terrorists. All indications point to a foray from Pakistan, a vital cruicible for the global jihadimachine. We are just their latest target.

Tourists watch as smoke billows out of the historic Taj Mahal ... 
Tourists watch as smoke billows out of the historic Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. World leaders have expressed anger and horror after Islamist militant attacks in Mumbai left more than 100 people dead, as fears grew over foreign hostages.(AFP/Indranil Mukherjee)
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