Specific intel warnings were ignored

Very specific intelligence warnings over terror attacks in Mumbai, especially on the Taj hotel, via the sea route were ignored by the Intelligence Bureau

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On Nov 18, coast guard knew an LeT vessel had set sail from Karachi; on Sept 24, intel said Taj will be attacked

NEW DELHI: Very specific intelligence warnings over terror attacks in Mumbai, especially on the Taj hotel, via the sea route were ignored by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Coast Guard and the Maharashtra police, according to dependable sources in the security establishment.

At least three different and specific inputs were issued in the past three months, the last one being as late as November 18, the sources told DNA. Besides, a steady stream of information over the years had established that Arabian Sea was being used by terrorists, especially the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), for smuggling arms and ammunition into mainland India.

The security agencies, especially the Coast Guard and the state police, failed to act on the recent inputs, ignoring them as some more cases of undependable tip-offs, resulting in the Mumbai carnage.

Sources said that on November 18 the IB, based on inputs received from another agency, alerted the Coast Guard and the Maharashtra police that four days earlier a vessel belonging to the LeT had set sail from Karachi. This warning clearly said the vessel’s target was Mumbai.

“Almost daily there are so many intelligence warnings,” says a senior official of one of these agencies, adding: “We don’t grade them or prioritise them.” That comes as a surprise since RDX and weapons came by the Arabian Sea for the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

Earlier, on September 24, there was a specific intelligence input from Karachi that warned of a possible attack on the Taj hotel for which the Lashkar-e-Toiba was training cadres. Again, it had no response.

There was also an intelligence input from the US about a possible terrorist strike via sea, the sources said. But it is not clear what exactly was this tip-off or if it was just a generic warning.

There has been a steady flow of intelligence information in the recent past that LeT was eyeing the sea route for terror attacks in India. The most sensational of such warnings came when the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) obtained the interrogation report of senior Lashkar operative Faisal Haroun who was arrested in Dhaka while on his way to Mauritius in 2006.

Indian agencies had laid a trap for him in Mauritius but the Bangladeshi authorities nabbed him in Dhaka and, after interrogation, deported him to Pakistan without informing India. But RAW was able to get hold of the interrogation report.

Haroun revealed during the interrogation that LeT was using the sea route to smuggle explosives and weapons to its Indian wing, based mostly in Hyderabad and involved in several terror attacks in India.

A senior official of one of the agencies that received the warnings on the impending attack on Mumbai said about the lapse: “We have no concept of security grading or prioritisation of warnings. In most countries intelligence and threat perceptions are graded, indicating the seriousness of the threat. How am I to respond within my limited resources if almost every other day I get warnings on a range of issues.”

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