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Paris reminds Mumbai to revisit terror-proof security protocols

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source: jantakareporter.com
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Soon after the Paris attacks on November 13 this year, Coast Guard teams launched a mock attack on Mumbai by approaching the city and surrounding through the coast lines, just like the Mumbai attackers had done in 2008. Sadly, the exercise was successful in showing how  security protocols still fail to scan incoming dangers as several of the Coast Guard teams succeeded in slipping through.

Officials stated that the test was not a complete disaster, but exposed India’s continuing vulnerability to outside attacks.

“There was a mixed result,” said a navy spokesman in Mumbai. “We do find weaknesses, but over the years the number of people who can go through (our defenses) is much less,” he added.

In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, in which 10 gunmen infiltrated the city after landing on the shores by boat, and proceeded to attack high profile sites, the city took certain steps in defense. A National Security Guard (NSG) unit was deployed to the financial capital, the Mumbai police received better equipment, and knowledge about the sea-borne threat was imparted to the fishermen population, while giving them a helpline to call on in case of suspected threat.

‘Force One’—a counter-terrorism police force, was also set up in Maharashtra.

However, security experts reported that the initial defensive rush faded fast.

“A lot of effort goes in at first. But over time, people lose interest. Momentum is lost. There is no leadership continuity,” said Govind Sisodia, who was a senior NSG commander at the time of the Mumbai attacks.

The immediately reporting police personnel during the attacks were too poorly trained and equipped to deter the heavily armed gunmen attacking multiple spots simultaneously.

Sisodia said that even after 12 hours after the Mumbai attacks started, the elite force wasn’t able to leave their New Delhi headquarters as no plane was available.

Though seven years have passed since the attack, Force One still hasn’t moved into its proposed headquarters and shares a fourth floor office with the police academy in a shabby Mumbai building.

“From every incident, we take a lesson, we revise our protocols,” inspector general of police running the unit, Sanjay Saxena, said on the Paris attacks.

Saxena said little on how the squad operated, including his plans to deal with the city’s high traffic which seriously hinders the journey time of any military personnel to reach the venue.

Security experts cite the evolving military tactics of terror forces as a major source of concern.

The Paris attacked were quite similar to the ones in Mumbai, but they differed in their use of suicide belts, which ruled out capture while maximizing casualties.

“Mumbai ushered in a new era,” said GK Pillai, India’s home secretary after the Mumbai attacks. “This is a new type of terrorism: multiple, very well-trained teams striking a variety of targets.

“The lesson was that in cities you need to have a few hundred of these elite commandos available within 10-15 minutes, whether it is Paris or London,” he said.

India’s main security focus is on containing Kashmir’s separatist tendencies, and as such the country has little force to spare for other regions. Militants crossing in from neighboring Pakistan, who usually target urban settings, is the major source of worry. Apart from the Mumbai attacks, this was also evident in the police station raid in Punjab in July.

“Any urban area remains a target,” said Home Minister P Chidambaram, who took over just after the Mumbai attack. “In a city anyone can burrow themselves and remain invisible for weeks, months, even a year.”

Intelligence sources don’t have adequate information on the tens of thousands of Indians working in Gulf countries. Iraq, which is partly under IS control, houses around 18,000 Indians, according to the government, though the actual number might be a lot higher.

“Our data (on labourers) working abroad, especially in the Gulf, who are usually targeted for joining IS, is woefully inadequate,” said Vappala Balachandran, a senior foreign intelligence specialist who had led an inquiry into the Mumbai attacks.

Islamic State had recruited 23 Indians, according to a recent Indian intelligence report. However, they were considered “inferior fighters” by the terror group.

With incoming threats from terror groups, India has to work fast in gathering any and all loose ends to terror-proof the nation.

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Analysts in USA and India Not surprised by Release of Hafiz Saeed by Pakistan

While the news of Saeed’s release has caught worldwide attention, some US experts on South Asian affairs say Pakistan's move was bound to happen - sooner or later.

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Hafiz Saeed has been released from jail by Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistan's Jamaat-ud-Dawa group waves to supporters at a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 24, 2017. VOA

Anti-terrorism analysts in Washington and New Delhi are critical of Pakistan’s decision to release a man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 160, but some say they are not surprised by the move. U.S. officials say Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist.

He was set free by Pakistani authorities after 11 months of house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday. Earlier last week, a judicial panel of Lahore High Court said there was not enough evidence to continue Saeed’s detention.

Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan
Supporters of Hafiz Saeed, head of Pakistan’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, shower his car with rose petals as he leaves a court in Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 21, 2017. VOA

While the news of Saeed’s release has caught worldwide attention, some experts on South Asian affairs say Pakistan’s move was bound to happen – sooner or later. “I see Saeed’s release as totally unsurprising. This is a story that’s played out multiple times in recent history: He is put under house arrest only to be released,” Michael Kugelman, a Washington-based South Asian analyst associated with the Woodrow Wilson Center told VOA.

“Pakistani legal authorities had said all along that there was not sufficient evidence to keep him detained, so it was just a matter of time before he was released,” Kugelman added.

Hafiz Saeed is the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa group (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat foundation (FIF), both of which have been declared terrorist organizations by the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is widely believed to be the front of Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) which was included into the U.N.’s terrorist groups list in 2005.

US ‘deeply concerned’

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Saeed should be arrested and charged for his crimes. “The United States is deeply concerned that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed has been released from the house arrest in Pakistan. LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens,” Nauert said.

Mumbai Terror Attack
FILE – People hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of a terrorist attack, in Mumbai, India, Nov. 29, 2008. The attack took a total of 160 lives. VOA

India, which alleges Saeed was mastermind of Mumbai carnage in 2008, has also reacted strongly to his release. India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said that a “self-confessed and U.N.-proscribed terrorist was being allowed to walk free and continue with his evil agenda.”

Some political analysts in India also seem to be agitated by Saeed’s release and say it will only further complicate the already strained relations between the two rival nations.

“His release only reinforces the popular belief in India that the Pakistani establishment is either not interested or it’s incapable of putting Saeed on trial in the Mumbai case,” Vinod Sharma, Delhi based political editor of the Hindustan Times told VOA. “In either case it increases the trust deficit between the two countries.”

Insufficient evidence, says Pakistan

Lawmakers in Pakistan dismiss the allegations and maintain India and the U.S. provided insufficient evidence to put Hafiz Saeed behind bars or declare him a terrorist.

“The criticism by the United States is wrong and India’s anger makes no sense as Pakistan is a democratic country where courts are powerful and work with full authority,” Abdul Qayyum, a prominent member of the ruling party PML-N told VOA. “Until and unless there is solid evidence against Hafiz Saeed, how can you arrest or punish him? We have strict rules for terrorists and we do not spare them at any cost,” Qayyum added.

Some experts on South Asian affairs point out that Hafiz Saeed’s release orders came out within days after the U.S. Congress removed a provision from the National Defense Authorization Act 2018 that delinks Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) from the Haqqani Network to reimburse Pakistan for its cooperation in the war on terror.

Ashley Tellis, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington called the amendment an “unfortunate move.” “It will give Pakistan a way to differentiate between good and bad terrorists and they will make less effort to satisfy the United States against the war on terror,” Tellis told VOA.

Aman Azhar of VOA’s Urdu Service contributed to this report.