As the investigation into the intelligence failures that preceded the Mumbai attacks proceeds, there is evidence that even quite specific information that was gathered was either not properly analysed or not acted on.
The Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s external intelligence agency, had provided several intercepts from signals intelligence over the last three months. These suggested that a terror strike on a Mumbai hotel was imminent. But they were largely ignored.
By Vir Sanghvi
On September 18, R&AW computers intercepted a satellite phone conversation between a known Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) asset and an unknown person. The LeT asset said that an operation to target a hotel at the Gateway of India in Mumbai was being planned and that the sea route would be used.
On September 24, R&AW’s computer recorded another satellite phone conversation. This time, the LeT asset identified the hotels that were being considered for the attack by name. They were the Taj, the Marriott, the Land’s End and the Sea Rock. A possible attack on the Juhu airfield (used by a flying club) was also discussed.
All these hotels have one thing in common: they are easily accessible from the sea. The Taj is on the Apollo Bunder waterfront, the Marriott is on Juhu sea face and the Land’s End and the Sea Rock are both on the sea-facing tip of Bandra. This should have been enough to let police know that: 1) Hotels were the target. 2) The attackers would use the sea route.
On November 19, R&AW listeners picked up another unexplained satellite phone conversation. A voice said, “We will reach Bombay between nine and eleven.” R&AW trackers identified the exact coordinates of the call and discovered that it came from the sea near Mumbai, 40 km west of Jhol.
This was clear evidence — at the very least — of an attempt being made to enter Mumbai illegally by people armed with advanced satellite phones.
U.S. Warned India Twice About Terror From The Sea
United States intelligence agencies had warned India “twice” about a potential maritime attack on Mumbai at least a month before audacious terror strikes that has left about 200 people dead and scores injured, media reports said.
“The United States warned the Indian government about a potential maritime attack against Mumbai at least a month before last week’s massacre in the country’s financial capital,” the CNN quoted a US counter-terrorism official as saying.
The American network quoted the official as saying that the warning was issued not once but “twice”.
A second government source told ABCnews.Com that specific locations, including the Taj Hotel, were listed in the US warning.
“US intelligence indicated that a group might enter the country by water and launch an attack on Mumbai, said the official, who refused to be identified due to the ongoing investigation into the attacks and the sensitivity of the information,” the CNN added.
“Indian security forces have confirmed to CNN that not only did US officials warn them of a water-borne attack in Mumbai — they were told twice. The area entered a higher state of alert for a week, including tightened security measures at hotels, but those efforts were eventually reduced, Indian officials said,” the network, which repeatedly broadcast the story last evening, maintained.
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