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How the terrorists landed

March 19, 2009
26/11 Mumbai Attacked, one of the first books on last winter's murderous acts of terror, explains the reality behind the attacks. It reiterates the chilling reality that India is under grave threat and the clock is ticking before the next big attack.

In the fourth of a five-part series, we bring to you an exclusive excerpt written by journalist Ashish Khetan on how the Coast Guard looked in vain for a Lashkar-e-Tayiba vessel in the days before the attack and the early days of the investigation into the attacks.

Part I: What Kasab told cops after his arrest
Part II: How handlers in Pakistan directed 26/11 attack
Part III: The demonic voices who directed 26/11 mayhem

Terror's Trail

It was around 10.30 pm when the inspector general of Indian Coast Guard, Western region, Rajendra Singh -- in charge of the coastal security of 3,473 km of coastal belt along the western coast of India: a total area of 9,3,000 sq km of Arabian Sea extending from Koteshwar in Gujarat to Mattam Point in Kerala up to the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL, an imaginary boundary separating Indian waters from Pakistani waters) -- received a phone call from the Operations Room Centre of the Coast Guard in Mumbai. 'Sir, there appears to be a coordinated terror attack in Mumbai; the Taj hotel, the Oberoi hotel, the CST station and a place called Chabad House in Colaba have been attacked by armed terrorists.' Singh, who had just come back to his small room in Mayur Vihar, Delhi, from a routine departmental meeting at the Coast Guard Headquarters in the capital, was packing his bags to fly back the next morning to Mumbai -- the official base of the Western region.

Singh immediately turned on the television set. Hysterical anchors and reporters across different channels were giving sketchy, varying facts of the unfolding terror attack. 'More than twenty terrorists have stormed the city.' 'The Taj, the Oberoi and the CST have been attacked.' 'Few bomb explosions have occurred across Mumbai.' 'The terrorists are setting the Taj on fire.' 'Nine terrorists have been reportedly arrested by the police.' 'Terrorists had checked into the Taj and the Oberoi days in advance and had stored explosives in hotel rooms for the impending terror attack.' Singh, bewildered and shocked, remained glued to the TV as horrifying, fleeting images of burning hotel rooms and sounds of grenade explosions kept beaming on news channels.

Hundreds of miles away from the Mayur Vihar apartment in Delhi where Singh was staring at the TV, Bharat Dattatraya Tamore, fifty-eight, was sitting at a small, rickety desk in a badly lit, grimy police station at Cuffe Parade in Mumbai. Tamore had been staying at a fishermen colony -- a cluster of flat-roofed, matchbox styled houses in the squalor of an urban slum along the seashore -- at Cuffe Parade in South Mumbai since his birth. It was something that Tamore had seen that very evening at around 8.20 pm that necessitated his presence at the police station. Not far from the Taj President -- another five-star property of the Taj Group in Mumbai -- he had seen eight, maybe ten (it was dark and the occasion did not present a chance for a head count), strongly built, smartly dressed youth emerge out of the dark sea at the fishermen colony. The scene was odd enough for Tamore to register it; faces grimy and hair sticky from days without a bath, the youth made their way hurriedly with bulky rucksacks on their backs and additional bags in their hands.

'What else did you see?' asked Assistant Police Inspector Vilas Bhole, taking down notes on a white sheet of paper. 'They came in an inflated speedboat. Came right up to the shore, by the rocks and then got off the boat and walked towards the main road. They split up in groups of twos, each group went away separately, in different directions,' replied Tamore. Ironically, the men Tamore had seen were headed to wreak carnage at the Taj hotel, Tamore's workplace for the last thirty years, where he was employed as a steward. As Tamore sat narrating his eyewitness account to API Bhole, a few feet from him, his neighbour Bharat Kashinath Tandel, fifty-two, resident of kholi number 18 in the fishermen colony, was sitting across Sub-Inspector Anil Kamble.

Tandel had his own story to tell which was similar to Tamore's except for one additional, important detail. Tandel had sensed that they were not from Mumbai, their rubber speedboat was not like those used by the fishermen in the area, the anxiety on their faces making them all the more suspect. A curious and suspicious Tandel asked the men who they were and where they were headed. To this, one of them replied: 'Hum pehle se hi tang hain. Hume pareshaan mat karo. (We are already quite stressed. Don't pester us.)' Tandel and Tamore were alone at the time these men came to the shore. 'Normally, at that time of the evening, the place is buzzing with people. But this evening because of the day-night cricket match between India and England most of the men were inside their houses, watching the match on TV. If there were more people around we would definitely have had an altercation with them,' said Tandel.

Image: Bharat Tamore, the man who saw the terrorists arrive by boat in Colaba.
Photograph: Arun Patil

Excerpted from 26/11 Mumbai Attacked, Edited by Harinder Baweja, Roli Books, 2009, with the publisher's kind permission.

Also see:
Pakistan government can't rein in ISI
Video: Advani blames govt for Mumbai attack

Buy the book

Part V: How the Mumbai police broke Ajmal Kasab

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