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Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008
Officials quit over India attacks



By Gordon Corera
Security correspondent, BBC News

One of the gunmen at the Chatrapathi Sivaji railway station - 26/11/2008
The Mumbai attacks were organised and on a large scale

India - and Mumbai - are no stranger to terrorism but the attacks on multiple targets in the city mark a significant step change.

Previous attacks involved the leaving of explosives in public places like markets or on trains. These could be devastating in terms of the loss of life, with nearly 200 killed in 2006.

But the latest attacks are different in terms of both method and scale, with teams of well-armed men involved in synchronised attacks - the gunmen were also clearly prepared to die in their attacks.

Another major difference is the targeting of restaurants and hotels used by westerners and the apparent singling out of those with British and American passports.

This points to either a major shift in strategy by an existing group or the influence or direction of outside parties, perhaps even al-Qaeda, whose style of attacks this mimics.

The growing tide of attacks raises major problems for the Indian authorities

However, while the attack was highly organised, it was not necessarily that advanced in terms of technology, with automatic weapons and grenades. It had more the look of a small-scale guerrilla war than a typical al-Qaeda attack.

A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attacks but little is known of it.

Attacks over recent years have seen a variety of different groups named, particularly the Indian Mujahideen who had apparently threatened to attack Mumbai in September, claiming that Muslims had been harassed.

The authorities have often pointed the finger at the Students' Islamic Movement of India, believing that other groups like the Indian Mujahideen are a front for this banned organisation.

Some attacks have also been blamed on Lashkar-e-Toiba, which India says is backed by Pakistan's intelligence agency the ISI.

That group on Thursday denied any involvement in the attacks.

However, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did say the "well-planned and well-orchestrated attacks" probably had "external linkages" to a neighbouring country.

And a senior Indian army official suggested the militants may have come from Pakistan.

Wider impact

If India were to formally accuse the Pakistani government, then major diplomatic problems could ensue, but that may be less likely happen as quickly as occurred in the past when relations were more fraught.

People stand by the remains of an exploded vehicle in Mumbai, India (26/11/08)
The Mumbai attacks were organised and on a large scale

An attack by militants on the Indian parliament in December 2001 nearly led to war between the two countries.

Even if there were some kind of link to Pakistan, that would be different to a link to the Pakistani government, which is itself battling terrorists and suffering heavy casualties among both security forces and civilians.

The detention of a number of the militants and their subsequent interrogation should provide evidence for Indian authorities to try to understand any international links.

The growing tide of attacks, particularly this year, raises major problems for the Indian authorities.

As well as tracking down any gunmen who have escaped, the local and national authorities will also have to deal with the issue of public confidence in their ability to get a grip on the situation.

After previous attacks, Mumbai bounced back quickly as a city, with life getting back to normal and people travelling on the trains again, but this attack may have a different psychological impact.

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