‘Symphonic’ military-style attack employed in Mumbai, says Iranian terror expert


New Delhi : The surprise no-holds-barred assault mounted in Mumbai by terrorists is part of the tactic of “symphonic” attacks that has been tried in a number of other countries in the past decade, notably Algeria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, at times with devastating effects according to an Iranian-born author based in Europe

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“It looks as if the perpetrators were trying to imitate the tactic of ‘ghazwa’, used by the Prophet against Meccan caravans in his decade-long campaign to seize control of the city,” says Amir Taheri, writing in Britain’s “The Telgraph”.

“The tactic consists of surprise no-holds-barred attacks simultaneously launched against a caravan or settlement with the aim of demoralising the enemy and hastening his capitulation.”

According to Taheri, who is the author of ‘Holy Terror: Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism’ the Mumbai attacks differed from previous terror operations in India in a number of ways.

“In the past, one approach had been to place explosive-packed devices in crowded places with the aim of killing large numbers at random. Another was suicide attacks on specific targets by lone “volunteers for martyrdom”.

This time, however, the approach was “symphonic”, in the sense that it involved different types of operations blended together.

”Involved in the operations were men who had placed explosives at selected points. But there were also gunmen operating in classic military style by seizing control of territory at symbolically significant locations along with hostages. Then there were militants prepared to kill, and be killed, in grenade attacks against security forces,” he says.

”Whoever designed the operations had another important Islamic tactic in mind: tabarra or exoneration.”

This, Taheri says, consists of separating the “outsider”, in this case the British and American “infidel”, from the community with the intent of blaming them for the ills of the world before sacrificing them.

“It was no accident that one of the places attacked was a Jewish centre, where gunmen seized a rabbi and several members of the congregation as hostages.”

Although new to India, the tactic of “symphonic” attacks has been tried in a number of other countries in the past decade, notably Algeria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, at times with devastating effects, adds Taheri.

”Most recently, it was tried, on a smaller scale, by the Taliban in the Afghan city of Qala-Mussa. Theoretically, the tactic could be used in any city, from Bombay (Mumbai) to New York, passing through London and Paris,” he says.

On Wednesday, it was obvious that India’s various anti-terror units were surprised, unable to cope with methods of operations not mentioned in their manuals.

Taheri further points out that the unknown group using the name the “Deccan Mujahedin” may be a cover for other groups, perhaps the Lashkar Tayyiba (the Army of the Pure) and the Jaish Muhammad (the Army of Muhammad), two terrorist organisations created by the Pakistani military intelligence services.

“The new label used may also be significant. Deccan, a region in south-central India, was the intellectual and cultural capital of Indian Islam for centuries.”

”By using the term “Deccan Mujahideen”, the terrorists may be trying to pass two messages. First, that the Islamist movement is no longer interested only in Kashmir but intends to strive for the reconquest of the whole of India for Islam.”

This runs in line with the new pan-Islamist thinking that propagates the will to recover all lands once ruled by Muslims – from India to Spain and southern France, passing by Siberia, parts of Russia and the Balkans.

“Deccan” designates a movement that has universal aspirations precisely because it claims local roots.

But, more importantly, Taheri says: “The designation is also intended to show that India now has a home-grown Islamist terror movement.”