26/11 and Other Terror Attacks in India

The Mumbai attacks turned the otherwise pristine Taj and Oberoi into death traps, but they are not the worst we have faced.

Today is November 26. On this day, nine years ago, terrorists from Pakistan infiltrated Mumbai and unleashed a wave of terror that took hundreds of lives.

The attack began at 8 pm at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

Simultaneously, the Oberoi, the Taj and a number of other places witnessed firefights and explosions.

Several police officers laid down their lives that night. Terrorist Ajmal Kasab was captured, and after a lengthy imprisonment, executed, while most of the stragglers were shot down in firefights.

Recently, Pakistan released Hafiz Saeed, the man who is said to be the mastermind of the attacks and head of the banned militant outfit JuD, who proclaimed he would “continue to fight for the Kashmir cause”.

India has been repeatedly hit by terror attacks, some small and quickly forgotten, some large and remaining fresh in memory.

As we observe the anniversary of 26/11, here's a look back at other terror attacks on Indian soil.

 
1984 Meenambakkam

On August 2, 1984, a number of people, some associated with Tamil Eelam Army, executed a long-running conspiracy to smuggle explosives placed in luggage cases onto a plane en route to Sri Lanka and exploding it at the airport there.

However, due to a mistake, the luggage ended up on a plane flying to London from Chennai.

The perpetrators, perplexed by the turn of events, tried many times to warn of the explosives, but their warnings were ignored.

Eventually, the luggage, detained because the owner did not show up for identification, exploded, killing 30 people and injuring several others at the airport.

Ten men were arrested. While five were acquitted, the rest were sentenced to life.

 
1993 Mumbai

Arguably the most infamous of all terror attacks to strike India, the 1993 Mumbai blasts were perpetrated by Dawood Ibrahim in association with Tiger and Yakub Memon.

It was reportedly in retaliation to the Babri Masjid demolition, when an army of Kar Sevaks, led by the VHP and BJP, tore down the mosque. About 2,000 people died in the riots that followed.

The bombs began exploding near the Bombay Stock Exchange on March 12 and spread to several areas, including hotels, the passport office and even a terminal at the erstwhile Sahar Airport (now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport).

The death toll was 257, the highest in any single terror attack on India. A lengthy judicial procedure followed and resulted in 100 convictions.

A number of customs officials and police personnel were also convicted of aiding and abetting the crime.

Sanjay Dutt, the Bollywood actor, also had to face imprisonment for possession of firearms allegedly provided by Dawood Ibrahim. The entire episode ended with Yakub Memon being hanged in 2015. However, neither Dawood Ibrahim nor Tiger Memon has been arrested yet.

 
1998 Coimbatore

A bloody retaliation to an attack by Hindu fundamentalists which took the lives of 18 Muslims, the Coimbatore blasts was masterminded by the now banned outfit Al-Ummah, targeting L K Advani, then Union home minister.
 

The incident occurred on February 14, starting with a blast from a bomb mounted on a cycle at the Coimbatore railway station, with several vehicular bombs following the initial one.

The perpetrators used gelatin sticks and timers to make crude explosives. In all, 58 people were killed, and 200 injured.
 

In the subsequent investigation, 35 convictions with varying sentences were handed out.

Al-Ummah was banned, and its leader S A Basha was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2002, five people linked to the blasts were killed in a police encounter in Bangalore.

2001 Parliament

Attributed to Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, the 2001 attack not only put Parliament at risk but also exposed a number of gaps in its security.

Five terrorists infiltrated parliament grounds on December 13, 2001, using spoofed stickers to make their vehicle look like those from the Home Ministry. When one policeman uncovered their intentions, they shot him down. An alarm was raised, resulting in a fierce firefight.

Nine security personnel were killed but they managed to down all five terrorists. The ensuing probe named the Kashmiri separatist Afzal Guru, his cousin Hussain Guru, Hussain's wife Afsan and S.A.R. Gilani as the masterminds of the attack.

The four were tried and convicted. Afsan was subsequently cleared of all but one charge, while Geelani was acquitted. However, Afzal was sentenced to death and later hanged.

Pakistan's former ISI chief Javed Ashraf Qazi publicly named Jaish, adding that Pakistan should not be afraid to admit that the group was involved in the attack.

 
2002 Akshardham

The 2002 Gujarat riots, triggered by the Godhra train burning, resulted in about 700 Muslim and 250 Hindu deaths. It led to terrorists attacking Akshardham, a Hindu temple in Gujarat.

On September 14, 2002, two terrorists went to the temple's third gate with a bag full of arms and ammunition, jumping over a seven-foot wall to evade security. They began indiscriminately spraying the premises with bullets.
 

Their attempt to terrorise pilgrims was thwarted when temple workers blocked their progress, and the arrival of the NSG, following a request from the then chief minister Narendra Modi's request to Central home minister L K Advani. Both terrorists were gunned down after a long-drawn confrontation.

2006 Mumbai

The 2006 Mumbai train blasts were especially effective because terrorists chose to use the post-work rush hour when the Mumbai locals are filled beyond capacity.

Using pressure cooker bombs, several coaches of multiple trains were targeted, resulting in the death of about 200 people.

The attack came hours after a grenade attack in Srinagar and resulted in a state of high alert across multiple cities, including Bangalore.

Many groups claimed credit for the attack, including one believed to be an offshoot of the LeT, and the Indian Mujahideen. Five people were sentenced to death and seven sentenced to life imprisonment.

2006 Malegaon
Barely two months after the Mumbai blasts, another blast rocked Malegaon in Nashik, Maharashtra.

The bomb exploded in a mosque-cum-graveyard and resulted in 30 deaths. About 50 people were injured.

Then Union home minister Shivraj Patil said the attack was meant to divide society.

While initial investigations pointed to the involvement of SIMI, the final charge sheet filed in 2013 named the Hindu extremist group Abhinav Bharat.

2007 Samjhauta Express

One of the few terror attacks to have affected both India and Pakistan equally, the Samjhauta Express blast affected relations between the neighbours.

On the midnight of February 18, 2007, twin blasts rocked the train running between Delhi and Lahore, killing 60 people, including several Pakistani nationals. The attack was condemned on both sides.

The investigation has been long-drawn, with no clear perpetrator being identified, despite both Abhinav Bharat and Lashkar-e-Taiba being suspected of the attack.

The attack did not deter Musharraf, then president of Pakistan, from continuing peace talks with India.

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