The Siege of Mumbai

The Knox Update

From the Firearms Coalition


The Siege of Mumbai


Madmen Serve As Models For Fanatics


By Chris Knox


(December 11, 2008) Last month, as we Americans celebrated our Thanksgiving, many of us missed or were only vaguely aware of a dramatic and horrifying story that unfolded on the other side of the globe.  A band of at least nine terrorists took a ship from Pakistan, somehow transferred to an inflatable boat in Indian waters, and just after nightfall, came ashore at the Gateway of India, a British-built stone monument in the harbor of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay).  From the harbor, it was a fifteen-minute walk to their targets. 

Over the next two hours, they hit ten locations: a train station, a Jewish community center, a hospital.  Terror squad members finally dug in at a pair of posh hotels and the Jewish community center.  Armed with automatic rifles and grenades, the terrorists targeted Jews and Americans, but were content to waste as many innocent lives as possible as they launched on a three-day rampage.  “They weren’t aiming at anyone in particular. It was like they wanted to empty their magazines and do as much damage here as possible before heading to the Taj [Mahal Hotel],” said one witness.  Over the three-day siege fewer than a dozen modestly trained, but determined terrorists killed almost 200 people and paralyzed a great city.

Pictures from photographer Sebastian D’Souza, show fresh-faced kids dressed like Western college students sauntering along firing into terrorized crowds.  D’Souza captured an image of two of the murderers seemingly engaged in a calm conversation beneath a billboard advertising tea.  “WAKE UP!” says the billboard headline.  Indeed.  D’Sousa later said that he wished he had a gun instead of a camera.

The Mumbai attack was a different kind of terror attack.  These terrorists were not drug-addled, “not-so-smart bombs” walking into a crowd wearing explosive vests.  They were competent, determined, but no less willing to die for their evil cause than suicide bombers.

So where did the terrorists get the idea that they could shut down a city, that they could shoot people with impunity while armed police stared, that they could count on people acting like sheep?  That question has rarely been asked in the ensuing investigations or in the chin-stroking analysis.  The simple answer, of course, is that terrorists read the papers too.  Rampage killings in England, Canada, and in America have provided a virtual laboratory for behavior of unarmed and panic-stricken crowds in the face of ruthless killers who show no regard for the sanctity of life. 

Those horrible laboratories have also shown that even armed but too-often inadequately trained police can find themselves paralyzed, betrayed by inadequate or improper training, or, faced with a grave situation with no contingency plans, stuck in bureaucratic holding patterns.  Some examples: 

  • In the video of the Reagan assassination attempt watch the Secret Service agent struggle with the stock of his Uzi sub-gun.  
  • At the Columbine High School the Jefferson County SWAT team could not decide whether to evacuate the school or try to eliminate the threats.
  • In the 1984 MacDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro, California the SWAT team waited for their sergeant who was stuck in traffic while the killing inside continued.
  • At Virginia Tech the SWAT team could not get past doors that the perpetrator had chained shut.

People – that includes cops – do not react at their best under the stress of combat.  Those with no training – the vast majority of civilians – panic and fall into herd behavior.  Trained professionals can react more effectively, but their training may not have anticipated the situation. 

The terrorists have learned all those lessons.  I won’t be surprised to see more terrorists turning “gun-free zones” and “gun-free nations” into killing fields.