Massive terror plot in Mumbai; 80 dead, 250+ injured; Update: 900 injured; Update: "Chatter" points to Al Qaeda? Update: 10 separate attacks

Awful, and doubly worrisome in light of the FBI alert issued this morning for the NYC subway system. According to CNN, they hit the airport, two hotels, a cafe, a railway station and a gas station — and there may be more on the way. The Foreign Ministry’s opened a war room to deal with it.

Has there ever been an attack with this many targets?

Armed with AK-47 rifles and grenades, a couple of terrorists entered the passenger hall of CST and opened fire and threw grenades, Mumbai General Railway Police Commissioner A K Sharma said.

The terror strike which began at 10:33 PM at Chhatrapathi Shivaji Terminus(CST), formerly known as the Victoria Terminus(VT), claimed 10 lives in the premises of the station alone, police said.

Three persons were killed in a bomb explosion in a taxi on Mazegaon dockyard road and an equal number were gunned down at Taj Hotel. The victims in the hotel were its employees.

The lobby of the Oberoi hotel was on fire and the hotel evacuated, eyewitnesses said.

Maharashtra DGP A N Roy said tonight’s attack in “at least seven places” is a “terror strike.”

No word yet on how many are involved, but the fact that they’re using guns and grenades instead of suicide bombs makes me wonder if this isn’t some homegrown group or a Pakistani jihadi outfit like Lashkar e-Taiba instead of AQ. LeT members were arrested in connection with the last attack on Mumbai, so there’s precedent. You might be hearing the name “Dawood Ibrahim” pop up in the coming hours, too; revisit this post by our old friend Clint Taylor for essential background.

Update: As expected, Counterterrorism Blog points the finger at LeT and a native Islamic student group.

Update: DrewM at Ace’s site claims that the hotel attackers demanded American hostages among the guests, specifically.

Update: Total chaos.

Update: At the Standard, Thomas Joscelyn asks a question wonders if an attack of this scale and coordination doesn’t point to Pakistan’s ISI.

Most, if not all, of the targets are places that cater to westerners – restaurants, hotels, trains, etc. Moreover, the terrorists have laid siege to a couple of hotels and the terrorists are incredibly mobile, moving from location to location. The attacks are ongoing and the casualty count keeps rising. The result is a traumatized city and nation.

It is too early to tell with any precision who is behind these attacks. The smart money is on the multi-headed hydra of terrorist and extremist groups based in Pakistan and Kashmir. Indeed, Pakistan’s intelligence service has waged a proxy war against India using terrorists for decades. The two nuclear powers have avoided a large-scale exchange, but the Pakistani ISI has repeatedly sponsored or aided terrorist groups targeting civilians in India. For example, Indian authorities were quite vocal in blaming Pakistan for the July 11, 2006 train bombings, which killed more than 200.

Update: A clue, maybe, as to how they pulled this off without no one noticing anything. How young are we talking about here?

“They were very young, like boys really, wearing jeans and T-shirts,” Rakesh Patel, a stunned British guest at the Taj, told an Indian television channel. He said he had been among about a dozen foreigners who had been herded together by two heavily armed men and taken up to the hotel’s upper floors.

“They said they wanted anyone with British and American passports and then they took us up the stairs. I think they wanted to take us to the roof,” he said. He and another hostage had managed to escape when they reached the 18th floor, he said.

Update: A group no one’s ever heard of called the Deccan Mujahedeen is taking credit. What’s worse: If they’re lying or if they’re telling the truth, which would mean amateurs somehow pulled off an attack this sophisticated?

Update: Correction — looks like they’re been heard from before.

Update: Unbelievably, the Times of India now says more than 900 have been injured. How is that possible absent at least one monster blast that wounds hundreds of people all at once? And again, just how many attackers are we talking about here? Is there an army parading through the streets of Mumbai?

They got a bunch of top cops, too. How?

The attacks have taken a tragic toll on the city’s top police brass: The high-profile chief of the anti-terror squad Hemant Karkare was killed; Mumbai’s additional commissioner of police (east) Ashok Kamte was gunned down outside the Metro; and celebrated encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar was also killed.


Some media reports attributed the attack to Lashkar-e-Taiba. There were also unconfirmed reports that some of the terrorists came in by sea. A boat laden with explosives was recovered later at night off the Gateway of India.

Update: Supposedly, western intel picked up “chatter” in the last few weeks suggesting a terror spectacular in the works to welcome Obama to the global fray. They’re assuming it’s AQ, but this doesn’t look like any other AQ attack I’ve ever heard of and India’s never been a big preoccupation of the leadership. Even so, here you go:

The multiple attacks on Westerners in Bombay tonight showed all the signs of an al-Qaeda strategy — picking on vulnerable Western “soft targets” but not in a country where there would be maximum security. The bombing of Western targets in Bali in 2002 when al-Qaeda-linked terrorists planted bombs in touristfavoured restaurants and nightclubs was another example where the terror group switched its resources to achieve maximum impact.

Counter-terrorist experts said that India would have been selected for the latest spectacular “probably because that’s where al-Qaeda have sufficient resources to carry out an attack on this scale”. One counter-terrorist expert told The Times: “They don’t choose for the sake of it, they look to see where they have the greatest capability and then order an attack,”

The key to this attack was the search by the armed terrorists for American and British passport holders. With a reported 40 Westerners being held hostage, the terrorists currently have the upper hand. The counter-terrorist sources said targeting Bombay’s most luxurious hotels and a crowded railway station had all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda operation.

If this is an international group like AQ, I wonder if their next try in America won’t involve more mundane weapons like guns and grenades instead of something grand scale to try to duplicate their success here.

Update: Via Danger Room, there’s already a Google Map available to show you how spread out the attacks are. And here’s a Flickr page of photos from the rubble.

Update: The Indian army’s reportedly moving in on the hotels where hostages are being held. We’re in for either one of the great rescue operations in history or another Beslan.

Update: Roggio suspects the Deccan Mujahedeen are a front group for the usual suspects.

Indian intelligence believes the Indian Mujahideen is a front group created by Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Harkat ul Jihad al Islami to confuse investigators and cover the tracks of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India, or SIMI, a radical Islamist movement. The groups receive support from Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence and are al Qaeda affiliates.

Update: No details yet but IBN says 50 people have been rescued from the Hotel Taj.

Update: MSNBC was streaming IBN just now and a correspondent speculated that we’re looking at maybe 100 suspects here, maybe more. How was a group that large trained and equipped well enough to carry out coordinated attacks without anyone leaking or Indian counterterror knowing about it? See now why Roggio thinks ISI might be at work here?

Update: There have been six separate explosions at the Hotel Taj, apparently, and 10 separate attacks across the city in all, according to IBN. I would never have guessed that any terror group was capable of pulling this off, be it AQ, Hezbollah, or whoever.