Today in Terrorism: November 26, 2008 – Taj Mahal Palace hotel attack

The multiple attacks in Mumbai in 2008 worsened tensions with Pakistan and demonstrated that India was high on the list of targets for jihadis

As we continue to read about and analyse terrorist attacks around the world it seems as if the vast majority are relatively low level. Normally, these incidents are perpetrated by a lone actor or a small group and they target one or two places over a short time span. Equally as normally these events are over quickly, either as a result of security forces’ action or because the terrorists kill themselves in suicide attacks.

On thankfully rare occasions the actions of terrorists are limited neither in scope or time. A few succeed in going from place to place, causing death and destruction to many: think of the Paris attacks in 2015 (subject of an earlier Today in Terrorism piece). At other times terrorists hunker down for a siege and can wait out for days (the Mecca attacks of 1979 are a great example).

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (Photo: AFP)

2008 Taj Mahal Palace hotel attack

On this day in 2008, India was beset by a series of attacks in the city of Mumbai that lasted four days. Ten terrorists from Pakistan alighted at a wharf and proceeded to go on a rampage that in the end led to the deaths of 195 people. Targets included the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, a railway station, two hospitals and a Jewish centre.

The gunmen were from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Sunni Islamist terrorist group founded in 1989. It normally targets Indians in the disputed Kashmir region: the Mumbai operation was its largest by far.

The attacks sent India-Pakistan relations to an even lower level, as hard as that is to imagine. The two nuclear states have had a hate for each other since partition in 1947 and the recent move by the Modi government in India to alter Kashmir’s status won’t help.

Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008
The scene at the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station in Mumbai (Photo: AP)

Attacks on this scale take careful planning. I am unsure as to how long the Mumbai siege was on the drawing board but it certainly succeeded in sowing fear and terror. That is after all what terrorists want.

We will continue to see smaller events on a regular basis. The larger ones such as Mumbai or, God forbid, 9/11 will take place very infrequently.

Let’s hope this pattern continues.

Phil Gurski
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