A Culture of Weakness

We may never fully understand how ten armed men were able to terrorize a city of 19 million, but this is at least part of the explanation:

In the first wave of the attacks, two young gunmen armed with assault rifles blithely ignored more than 60 police officers patrolling the city’s main train station and sprayed bullets into the crowd. Bapu Thombre, assistant commissioner with the Mumbai railway police, said the police were armed mainly with batons or World War I-era rifles and spread out across the station.

“They are not trained to respond to major attacks,” he said.

The gunmen continued their rampage outside the station. They eventually ambushed a police van, killed five officers inside – including the city’s counterterrorism chief – and hijacked the vehicle as two wounded officers lay bleeding in the back seat.

“The way Mumbai police handled the situation, they were not combat ready,” said Jimmy Katrak, a security consultant. “You don’t need the Indian army to neutralize eight to nine people.”

Constable Arun Jadhav, one of the wounded policemen, said the men laughed when they noticed the dead officers wore bulletproof vests.

With no SWAT team in this city of 18 million, authorities called in the only unit in the country trained to deal with such crises. But the National Security Guards, which largely devotes its resources to protecting top officials, is based outside of New Delhi and it took the commandos nearly 10 hours to reach the scene. …

Even the commandos lacked the proper equipment, including night vision goggles and thermal sensors that would have allowed them to locate the hostages and gunmen inside the buildings, [Ajai Sahni, head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management] said.

At the Jewish center, commandos rappelled from a helicopter onto the roof and slowly descended the narrow, five-story building in a 10-hour shooting and grenade battle with the two gunmen inside.

From his home in Israel, Assaf Hefetz, a former Israeli police commissioner who created the country’s police anti-terror unit three decades ago, watched the slow-motion operation in disbelief. The commandos should have swarmed the building in a massive, coordinated attack that would have overwhelmed the gunmen and ended the standoff in seconds, he said.

“You have to come from the roof and all the windows and all the doors and create other entrances by demolition charges,” he said.

The slow pace of the operations made it appear that the commandos’ main goal was to stay safe, Hefetz said.

In view of the number of terrorist attacks India has suffered, its failure to be more prepared is puzzling.

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