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Analysts Say Mumbai Attacks Show Rise of Strategic Terrorism

  • Catherine Cannon

U.S. terrorism experts say the November terror attacks in Mumbai, India are an example of a rising culture of terrorism that could inspire similar operations in the future. The experts discussed the potential for future attacks during a congressional hearing this week Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security.

Terrorism expert Brian Michael Jenkins of the RAND Corporation says the masterminds behind the Mumbai attacks showed a sophisticated level of strategic thinking during the three-day assault that left more than 170 people dead. Jenkins says meticulous planning by the attackers, who India says are members of the out-lawed group Lashkar-e-Taiba, allowed them to achieve their objectives.

"They were able to capture and hold international attention, always an objective of terrorism. They were able to exploit India's vulnerabilities, create a political crisis in India," he said.

Speaking before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Jenkins said what happened in Mumbai clearly shows that al-Qaida is not the only terrorism threat in the world. He said there are new contenders that have adopted al-Qaida's ideology of global terror.

"This suggests not only a continuing terrorist campaign in India, but more broadly it suggests that the global struggle against the jihadist terrorist campaign is far from over," he said.

The attacks in Mumbai were carried out by 10 men armed with assault weapons. Jenkins says the attackers used hostages to impede the police response.

"This is a tactic that we have seen elsewhere and that now we do have to be prepared for. That is, terrorists deliberately embedding themselves with civilians to increase the ultimate body count as the response takes place," he said.

Jenkins said terrorists are likely to continue to focus on "soft targets" like hotels, surface transportation, and other public places that are not usually subject to increased security.

He also added that Pakistan continues to play a problematic role in terrorist campaigns in South Asia because terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba are finding sanctuary in the country's turbulent tribal areas.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of the Northeastern state of Maine says Pakistan should be urged to take action.

"The United States government must continue to press the Pakistani government to eliminate safe-havens, and starve LeT and similar groups of new recruits for their deadly operations," she said.

Pakistan officials say they have detained at least 71 people suspected of being linked to Mumbai attacks.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security has held multiple hearings focusing on lessons that the United States and other nations could learn from the deadly Mumbai attacks.