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'There were more than just 10 terrorists'

Vicky Nanjappa | December 02, 2008 14:51 IST

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Can the claims by the Mumbai police that just 10 terrorists managed to hold Mumbai hostage for three days be believed? The sequence of events, observations by top security experts, the Intelligence Bureau and also the confessions of the arrested militant now in the custody of the Mumbai police, indicate that the operation was carried out by more than 10 men.

To begin with let us take into account the statements given by Mohammad Ajmal Amir Iman who the media has been calling Kasab all these days.

During his interrogation, he clearly states that in all 24 men were trained for this operation by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba for this attack. Further he suggests that 10 men came into Mumbai on that fateful night to carry out the attack.

During another round of interrogation, he also goes on to say that some of team members had come in much earlier to Mumbai and taken stock of the situation apart from collecting logistics and setting up the base for the final assault.

The arrested militant also says that these men had came a month ago to Mumbai. The men had rented a place on Muhammad Ali Road under the guise of Malaysian students. Another group took up a house on rent near the Nariman House, he also says during his confession. There was also a team which had checked into the Taj and done a study of the hotel.

Intelligence Bureau sources now confirm that the men who came into Mumbai earlier to set up base were completely different from the men who carried out the final assault. As per the brief given by the LeT, they were specifically asked to target the Taj Mahal hotel [Images], Trident and the Nariman House.

Statements by Amir Iman would also suggest that the 10-member team which he was part of had hijacked a fishing boat. They then rowed the boat to the Budhwar park in a dinghy. These men then took a taxi and spread out into different parts of the city. Iman along with Ismail reached the CST while the rest of the men spread out and caused havoc in other parts of the city.

The IB says that the 10 men split into three different groups and created havoc in CST, Chowpatty and Vile Parle areas. They also say that while this mayhem on the streets continued, the siege at the Taj, Nariman House and the Trident was carried out by the men who were already hiding in Mumbai. This gives an indication that the remaining 14 men apart from the 10 who came into Mumbai through the sea were taking position inside the three locations while their other team members were creating mayhem on the streets of Mumbai.

When the siege first commenced at the three locations, there were fourteen men in all who held fort at the Taj, Trident and Nariman House. Three men each took over the Nariman House and the Trident while 8 were allocated for the Taj considering the fact that it was the most important location for the terrorists. If you look at the initial statements of the police, it was said that they suspected that at least eight militants inside the Taj, but as the operation was coming to a close, the same police said that there were just four men inside the Taj.

While four men had initially taken position at the Taj, four more men joined them inside there. The IB says that these men were so well versed with the logistics of the Taj that they managed to enter through the back door while the firing was still on. It is believed that the men who were already inside the Taj opened fire indiscriminately at the guests and while this was on the remaining four men entered the hotel through the back door and took the hostages into their fold.

The question now is where are the four men who took over the Taj initially. The body count of terrorists recovered from the Taj shows that only four terrorists were found. It is believed that these men could have escaped from the Taj. It would also be interesting to point out here an eye witness account of a person by the name Apurva Parekh who said that he heard voices of three to four terrorists at the Trident which were different compared to the voices he heard at the same place earlier. This is a clear indication that the there were more than three men initially at the Trident and they could have escaped during the operation since the Mumbai police do not account for these additional men.

A top security expert told that it is impossible for just ten men to carry out an attack of this magnitude. He feels that the Mumbai police is deliberately keeping the number at 10 as it would be hard for them explain as to where the remaining 14 men have vanished. He also said that it is not possible logistically for just 10 men to run to ten different locations opening fire, hurling grenades and also taking siege of three important locations in the city. Just look at the sequence of events:

At 9.15 they open fire at Leopold, 9.21 at CST, 9.57 at Trident, 10.03 at Taj, 10.25, Kolavadi, 10.50 CST again, 10.51, BMC, 10.59- Azad Maidan and Cama hospital, 11.19, G T Hospital, 12.35, Nariman House and 1.43- Chowpatty.

It is definitely an operation which involved at least two dozen men, he says.

The Mumbai ATS, however, denies that there were more than ten men involved in the operation. They are relying upon the account given by the fishermen who say that they saw 10 men on the boat entering Mumbai.

The IB says that they do not rule out the possibility of some of these men escaping from Mumbai and hiding in other states. The IB says that they do not want to take any chances and have sent out advisories to all states to provide additional security at all vital installations and also beef up patrolling on the borders. 

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