'Aerial strikes are Mumbai's next worry'

Pradhan report wants aviation security measures in place, slams total confusion over alert

'Aerial strikes are Mumbai's next worry'

The R D Pradhan committee, formed to probe individual and systematic lapses which led to the attacks and the manner in which the 60-hour siege was handled, has slammed Maharashtra state’s security establishment for the “total confusion” in processing intelligence alerts about a possible attack.

The 90-page probe report was written by former home secretary R D Pradhan and former civil servant V Balachandran. The committee was formed after 10 heavily armed Pakistani terrorists launched simultaneous multiple attacks in Mumbai last November that brought the state government to its knees. The Maharashtra government last week tabled the report in the Nagpur session of the state assembly, but it has not been made public yet.

The report points to non-adherence to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) during the November 26-29, 2008, terror siege. The assault claimed the lives of 166 people, including 26 foreigners, and injured 244 others.

Air-borne attacks

“One should not overlook the possibility of airborne attacks on targets in the city in future,” the report says in a bold and underlined paragraph in its final observations.
“With increasing use of helicopters by the government as well as non-official parties, one may conceive a helicopter being taken over,” the probe panel has warned.

Without any pin-pointed reference if the threat was based on a specific intelligence input, the panel has recommended that the matter be taken up for study and necessary aviation security measures worked out.

The committee has appreciated the speed and urgency shown by the Mumbai police machinery  in reacting to the unfolding attacks but has pointed out that this was as “they usually respond to a law and order situation” and not to an attack by well-trained terrorists.

Expressing concern, the report categorically says that the police had no training or experience to undertake a war-like operation and counter a sophisticated attack despite many actionable intelligence inputs about a sea-borne terror strike.

Lack of intelligence

It has found “lack of intelligent appreciation of threats, handling of intelligence, maintaining high degree of efficiency and certainly lack of overt and visible leadership in carrying out operations to face multi-targeted attacks”.

The report further states that intelligence reports from August 7, 2006, had indicated that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant outfit was making preparations to infiltrate suicide squads into India by the sea route.

“Six alerts were on the possibility of seaborne attacks, 11 were on multiple and simultaneous attacks and three were on fidayeen attacks,” the report states. The Mumbai police have already admitted there were lapses in the way they dealt with the attacks.

A proper analysis of these inputs would have revealed a “strong indication” of the 26/11 attacks but the existing mechanism to make such an overall assessment was “inadequate”, the report says. The committee has found that all intelligence inputs are “mechanically” forwarded to operational units and that there was “total confusion in the processing of intelligence alerts at the level of the state government”.

Apart from mishandling of intelligence inputs, the panel has found that the city police were ill-prepared and ill-equipped to counter an attack by well-trained terrorists.

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