Counterterrorism officials and experts said the scale, sophistication and targets involved in the Mumbai attacks were markedly different from previous terrorist plots in India and suggested the gunmen had received training from outside the country. But they cautioned it was too soon to tell who may have masterminded the operation, despite an assertion from a previously unknown Islamist radical group.
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 28, 2008; Page A01
Officials in India, Europe and the United States said likely culprits included Islamist networks based in Pakistan that have received support in the past from Pakistan’s intelligence agencies.
Analysts said this week’s attacks surpassed previous plots carried out by domestic groups in terms of complexity, the number of people involved and their success in achieving their primary goal: namely, to spread fear.
“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.”
Several analysts and officials said the attacks bore the hallmarks of Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Muhammad, two networks of Muslim extremists from Pakistan that have targeted India before. Jaish-i-Muhammad was blamed for an attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001.
Both groups have carried out a long campaign of violence in the disputed territory of Kashmir, which India and Pakistan have fought over for six decades. The roots of the long-running conflict are religious: A majority of India’s population is Hindu, while most Pakistanis are Muslim.
A U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Lashkar-i-Taiba, which means “Army of the Pious,” and Jaish-i-Muhammad, or “Soldiers of Muhammad,” are “the thing people are starting to look at. But I can’t caution enough to treat it as a theory, a working assumption. It’s still too early for hard and fast” conclusions.
“What the Indians have in their favor,” the official added, “is that they’ve got some of these guys. It seems logical that they can expect to work their way back reasonably quickly.” Indian officials said several gunmen were captured.