I watched the movie “Hotel Mumbai” that dramatizes the terrorist attack by Muslim terrorists from Pakistan on Mumbai, India, in Nov 2008. The attacks on the Train Station and several restaurants and hotels as well as the Chabad House, were carried out by 10 well-armed members of the Lakshar-e-taiba terrorist group. The attacks were well planned and they were coordinated by their leader in Pakistan in real time. Not only were the attacks terrible, gruesome and bloody, but the movie made me angry, also because of the incompetence and lack of readiness of the Indian authorities.
There was no protection whatsoever in the largest city in India, the center of commerce and business. The ten terrorists simply arrived in a dinghy in the center of the city, calmly walked ashore, took taxis to their target locations and started shooting and killing people in cold blood. The local police had no unit trained to combat such well-armed terrorists and they were totally inadequate. The only trained anti-terrorist unit was in New Delhi, and it took them 12 hours to arrive in Mumbai. The shootings and hostage killings went on for 4 days, the terrorists carried out their carnage almost without any opposition. Not only did they kill about 180 people and injure about 500, but they also managed to bomb and set fire to the huge major hotel the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
I stayed in that Hotel some years ago. If I had known how vulnerable it was, with no guards, no protection whatsoever and no ability to escape an attack would I have stayed there then? I think we can say the same for many places around the world. Here are two other examples, in March, 1975, eight armed PLO-Fatah terrorists came ashore in Tel Aviv and after being attacked took over the Savoy Hotel. They murdered 8 civilian hostages, killed three Israeli soldiers and seven of the eight terrorists were also killed. Such an attack could not happen today (one hopes) due to the surveillance of the sea approaches by sophisticated means, as well as patrol boats of the Israel Navy. Between 1975 and 2008 perhaps India should have learnt from the Israeli lesson. Another incident took place in Sousse, Tunisia, in 2015 where a single terrorist opened fire on tourists on the beach, killing 38 mostly Brits. This was not the first attack on that location and there were other terrorist attacks in Tunisia.
Of course, the movie showed a dramatic re-telling of the events in Mumbai and the courage of some of the Hotel staff. What was terrible was that not only did the terrorists murder everyone they could in the hotel lobby when they arrived, but they went around the hotel, knocking on doors saying “room service” and shooting people dead when they opened the door. Never open a hotel room door unless you are sure it is really room service, and also never open a door until you are sure a terrorist incident is actually over.
The Taj Hotel was completely rebuilt and refurnished three years after the attacks and it was as if nothing had happened. Yet, the dead were still dead and lives were shattered. No terrorists in Pakistan paid for this crime, although the Pakistan Government denied any responsibility. One hopes India learned from this lesson, and that they have trained anti-terrorist squads in every major city.