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Experts: Mumbai Attacks Show Terrorists Using Advanced Technology

Police in India say they have identified the nine suspected Islamic militants killed during the three-day siege of Mumbai and uncovered new details about them - including their hometowns in Pakistan.  The terrorist attack and the way it was carried out is being studied by terrorism experts to learn what lessons can be drawn from the assault.  Experts in Washington warn future terrorists may use similar tactics as the Mumbai attackers.   

The small gang of  terrorists that attacked Mumbai came armed not just with guns and grenades, but also carrying cell phones, GPS and other high tech gear.  

And this level of sophistication is worrying to experts, who warn the Mumbai attacks could be the start of a dangerous trend.   

"The beach landing, the GPS, the use of Google, cell phone communication, I think it is far more sophisticated than the 9/11 attackers which [who] were effectively using flight control software and box cutters," said David Heyman, a Homeland security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Experts say the international community must be aware that if terrorists are using more sophisticated technology, they could someday carry out attacks with radioactive material or biological weapons.

Nuclear non-proliferation expert Leonard Spector says the ruthlessness shown by the terrorists in Mumbai raises concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions.  He says if Iran develops nuclear weapons, there is a danger that nuclear material might end up in the hands of terrorists.

"We may have a situation where the weapons exist but who controls them day to day, who is responsible for each aspect of their manufacture, for keeping the weapon grade nuclear material, for example, as the weapons are made," he said. "All this is opaque to the outside world and perhaps not so clear cut internally."

Being better prepared is part of the answer, say experts, who note India has elaborate plans on paper to deal with nuclear or biological attacks.  But in the case of Mumbai, Indian security forces were caught completely off guard, says Heyman.  

"On the surface, there are a lot of good steps being taken there, but what we saw was how spectacularly unprepared they were for these types of attacks," he said. "They have fewer than a hundred boats to cover a coast that of the size of our coast, the United States coast."

Yet experts say alert citizens can prevent terrorist attacks such as the case in London in 2006, where a plot to use liquid explosives on planes was foiled.  

"An investigation was started a year prior to that because a citizen, a neighbor of one of the participants in that plot told police that some strange activity was going on there," said David Heyman.

Yet the biggest and most obvious lesson from the Mumbai terrorist attacks is for security agencies around the world, says the South Asia adviser at the State Department, Seth Bailey.

"Not having a permanent commando force in their largest city, their financial capital of Mumbai? I think in retrospect everybody can take a look at that and say it was a mistake," he said. "And I am sure it is not one that will be repeated."

Experts say the message from the Mumbai attack is that while it may be impossible to completely eliminate terrorism, better preparation makes it possible to limit the damage caused by terrorists and defeat their purpose.

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