Thursday, November 27

Nine hour delay before Indian commandos could fight Mumbai terrorists

IBN, CNN's sister TV station in India, has the shocking report:
Late comers? What took commandos so long to react

By Seemi Pasha / CNN-IBN; Published on Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 02:38, Updated on Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 02:46 IST

Date: November 27, 2008

Time: 7 am

Location: Outside the imposing Taj Mahal hotel in Colaba.

New Delhi: Crack commandos of the elite National Security Guards waited to storm the hotel in their bid to rescue dozens of hostages from terrorists holed up inside.

The Mumbai police had only just finished the first pre-operation briefing of the commandos on the layout of the hotel and its occupants.

It was more than nine hours after the hostage drama first began in India's financial Capital, a time lag which has now left security and counter-terrorism experts aghast.

Former director general, National Security Guards, Ved Marwah says, “Normally, the NSG is ready to scramble in minutes. There seems to have been a delay in granting the go ahead”.

The handling of the Mumbai hostage crisis now suggests two disturbing outcomes. While experts agree there was an inordinate delay by the government in ordering commandos to the crisis spot, a near amateurish method seemed to have been used in scrambling them.

It was a mistake committed once earlier in 1999 while trying to block the path of Indian Airlines IC-814, when it took off for Kandahar.

Sources told CNN/IBN:

- The go-ahead for airlifting commandos came well past midnight

- It took over three hours for them to scramble and take off for Mumbai

- Commandos were brought to the encounter spots in BEST buses

- The commandos had no precise maps detailing hotel layout and access points

- All this, while the Mumbai police struggled to figure out the unprecedented situation

“This decision – of whether the NSG should be called in – is of state government’s. They should go by what they feel is the ground situation,” says former supercop KPS Gill.

The NSG, marine commandos and the army special forces units are the only ones equipped to deal with hostage rescue.

Sources tell CNN-IBN that it took the killing of its chief Hemant Karkare for the Maharashtra ATS to realise it had underestimated the terror threat.

It therefore decided to bring in the NSG. An early morning coordination meeting decided that the navy commandos also be brought in.

Anti-terror and commando units are now grappling with a new scenario: unprecedented hostage situations in high profile enclosed buildings never encountered in metropolitan India.

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