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2008: Mumbai Attacks


Members of the army move into Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus,
Ritam Banerjee/Getty Images


On November 26, 2008, attackers armed with automatic rifles and grenades spread out across the Indian city Mumbai, taking hostages and killing people in hotels, restaurants, hospitals , a train station and an Orthodox Jewish center. The attacks seemed clearly to be aimed at foreigners visiting the city. The attack virtually paralyzed the city.

Tactic/ Type:

Kidnapping / Shooting / Bombs / Grenades


November 26, 2008


Ten locations in Mumbai, India

The Story:

On the evening of November 26, 2008, television programming all over the world was interrupted with the breaking news that Mumbai (Bombay, when under British rule) was virtually under siege. Mumbai is one of India’s—and the world’s—largest cities, with a population of 18 million. Commentators inside the city observed that all activity but that of the police and other authorities had come to a halt by the day after the attack.

Ten to twelve locations were identified as targets by eyewitness observers, all located in the wealthy areas of town. They included the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi /Trident Hotel, a Chabad House (an orthodox Jewish organization), one or two hospitals, a train station—the , Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Leopold Cafe and a domestic airport and a police station.

The Taj Mahal hotel was emptied fairly rapidly by the police and the army, but the Oberoi hotel was still believed to have 200 people inside, as well as an unknown number of attackers, on the 27th.

In several of the locations, attackers opened fire. In the hotels they took hostages, seeking out foreigners and especially British and American citizens. Grenades were set off in other areas. The Taj Hotel was hosting a parliamentary conference and a number of visiting dignitaries were ensnared in the violence, but none were harmed.

The reports of the numbers of killed and injured varied in the midst of the attack. As of November 27, 2008, most reports indicated that about 100 victims were killed, and at least 200 injured. These included members of the police and security forces.

The identity of the attackers was not immediately known. They were described in first hand accounts as young me wearing jeans and tee-shirts.

An e-mail claiming responsibility and signed by the "Deccan Mujahideen" surfaced shortly after the attack. This group is not known, and may be associated with more established groups who have committed other terrorist attacks in India, claiming retaliation or revenge for Hindu attacks or, more broadly, long term discrimination. India was divided into Hindu and Muslim countries (which became Pakistan and Bangladesh) in 1948, but a sizeable Muslim minority lives in India today.

Experts rushed to declare links to parent Islamic organizations; some Indian politicians blamed outside forces -- by which they mean Pakistani; others suggested Al Qaeda links or likenesses, which seem unlikely. Yet others noted the youthfulness of the attackers and observed that they were likely a loosely coordinated group motivated in part by the passionate energies of youth itself.

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