The more than ten coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai which began on 26 November 2008 are referred to as 26/11 on the lines of 9/11 that reminds of the attack on the Twin Towers in US. The attacks lasted until 29 November, killing at least 173 people and wounding at least 308. Eight of the attacks occurred in South Mumbai including at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Oberoi Trident, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital, the Orthodox Jewish-owned Nariman House, and the Metro Cinema.
There was also an explosion at Mazagaon, in Mumbai’s port area, and in a taxi at Vile Parle. India’s National Security Guards (NSG carried out Operation Black Tornado, which ended all fighting in the attacks on 29 November with the death of the last remaining attackers at the Taj hotel.
Ajmal Kasab was the only attacker who was captured alive. He later disclosed that the attackers were members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a . Pakistan-based militant organization. In January 2009, Pakistan’s Information Minister Sherry Rehman officially accepted Ajmal Amir’s nationality as Pakistani.
In February 2009, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik, confirmed that parts of the attack were planned in Pakistan and said that six people, including the alleged mastermind, were being held in connection with the attacks.
Investigations revealed that the attackers traveled by sea from Karachi, Pakistan across the Arabian Sea, hijacked the Indian fishing trawler ‘Kuber’, killing the crew of four, and then forced the captain to sail to Mumbai. After killing the captain, the terrorists entered Mumbai on a rubber dinghy. The first events were detailed around 20:00 hrs Indian Standard Time (1ST) on 26 November, when 10 Urdu- speaking men in inflatable speedboats came ashore at two locations in Colaba. They reportedly they split up and headed two different ways.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) was attacked by two gunmen, one of whom, Ajmal Kasab, was later caught alive by the police and identified by eyewitnesses. The attacks began around 21:30 when the two men entered the passenger hall and opened fire, using AK-47 rifles. In the fifteen minute assault, the attackers killed 58 people and injured 104 others. The two gunmen then fled the scene and fired at pedestrians and police officers in the streets, killing eight police officers.
The terrorists then headed towards Cama hospital and attempted to enter the patient ward, but the hospital staff locked all of the patient wards. When local police arrived, Kasab and Khan threw grenades and shot a police officer dead before fleeing. A team of the Mumbai Anti- Terrorist Squad led by Police chief Hemant Karkare searched the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and then headed out in pursuit of Kasab and Khan, who opened fire on the pursuing vehicle.
Karkare and four of his officers were killed, and the only survivor was wounded. However, the terrorists ran into a police roadblock, which had been set up after the wounded police officer radioed for help, leading to a gun battle in which Khan was killed, and Kasab was wounded and arrested.
The Leopold Cafe, a popular restaurant and bar on Colaba Causeway in South Mumbai, was one of the first sites to be attacked, in which at least 10 people were killed. Also, there were two explosions in taxis caused by timer bombs one at Vile Parle, killing the driver and a passenger and the other at Wadi Bunder, killing three people and injuring about 15 others.
Two hotels, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower and the Oberoi Trident, were amongst the four locations targeted. Six explosions were reported at the Taj hotel and one at the Oberoi Trident. At the Taj Mahal, firefighters rescued 200 hostages from windows using ladders during the first night. During the attacks, both hotels were surrounded by Rapid Action Force personnel, Marine Commandos (MARCOS) and National Security Guards (NSG) commandos.
Feeds to the hotels were blocked after reports emerged that attackers were receiving television broadcasts. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan of the NSG lost his life during the evacuation of Commando Sunil Yadav who was hit in the leg by a bullet during the rescue operations at Taj.
At Nariman House, a Chabad Lubavitch Jewish center in Colaba known as the Mumbai Chabad House, several residents were held hostage by two attackers. Police evacuated adjacent buildings and exchanged fire with terrorists, wounding one. NSG commandos stormed the house by fast-roping from helicopters onto the roof, covered by snipers positioned in nearby buildings.
After a long battle, one NSG commando and both terrorists were killed. Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife were murdered with other hostages inside the house by the attackers. According to doctors, the victims had been tied up and tortured before being killed.
The Jewish outreach center at Nariman House and the Oberoi Trident hotel were secured by the army by the morning of 27 November. At the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, the final operation was completed by the NSG commandos at 08:00 on 29 November, killing three attackers and resulting in the conclusion of the attacks.
The security forces rescued 250 people from the Oberoi, 300 from the Taj and 60 people (members of 12 different families) from Nariman House. In addition, police were able to seize a boat filled with arms and explosives anchored at Mazgaon dock off Mumbai harbour.
It seemed as if the attackers had planned the attack several months ahead of time and knew some areas well enough for the attackers to vanish, and reappear after security forces had left. Type 86 Grenades made by China’s state-owned Norinco were used in the attacks. Blood tests on the attackers revealed that they had taken cocaine and LSD during the attacks, to sustain their energy and stay awake for 50 hours. Syringes were found on the scenes of the attacks.
After the attacks, the Indian government supplied evidence to Pakistan and other governments, in the form of interrogations, weapons, and call records of conversations during the attacks. International reaction for the attacks was widespread, with many countries and international organizations condemning the attacks and expressing their condolences to the civilian victims.
The New York Times, in July 2009, described the event as “what may be the most well-documented terrorist attack anywhere.” The Mumbai attacks has also demonstrated how terrorism can strike at will whenever and wherever it wants.