2 minute readLack of intelligence, hostages slowed down commando ops

 The process of rooting out the terrorists holed up in various buildings and hotels in Mumbai was an arduous and time-consuming task. A Special Forces (SF) officer said that a hostage situation coupled with size of the buildings in which the terrorists were holed up would require time and trained men. “When we operate in the Kashmir valley, clearing a house that has terrorists in it takes us four to five hours,” he said, adding, “Here we were talking about massive hotels. Even with the National Security Guards (NSG) and Marine Commandos (Marcos) conducting the operation it  takes time. And the hostage issue complicates matters.”
 
“Even if you send in so many commandos, what actually happens is a team of three goes around clearing and sanitizing rooms. In buildings of this size, there would be closets, cupboards, lofts attics besides the rooms themselves,” he said. “As far as the hostages are concerned, it takes a while before they can be brought out of harm’s way. Once night falls, the forces place a tight cordon around the buildings to prevent any terrorists from escaping and continue the operation in daylight.”
 
Retired Brigadier Brijendra Singh of the 17 Poona Horse who has served with the NSG walked us through the operations procedure of the NSG. “The NSG is trained for hostage situations of this kind. But the problem in this case is entire buildings cannot be tackled at the same time. They get inputs from local agencies as to where their targets are and focus on those areas specifically,” he said.
 
The SF officer also explained the time taken to initiate commando action. “The commandos have to go slow and carefully to prevent any action by terrorists against the hostages. The terrorists themselves have no intentions of really escaping or even living through. They’ve come on a one-way ticket. These people seem to have proper familiarity with the area. They’ve obviously planned well and reconnoitered,” he said.
 
Brigadier Singh agreed, saying, “It’s difficult to give a time frame, because the paramount rule is hostages should not be harmed. Most of the time is taken in organizing the intelligence to make a plan of action. That is why the operation took so long. It all depends on the actionable intelligence available. A group in the NSG collates data on intelligence about the targets, the building plans and layout as well as the weaponry carried by the targets.”
 
But in this case he says, it’s taken longer than usual. “See, we are in reaction mode. Forget talk of intelligence failure, there was no intelligence at all. While infantry has been called in, it is difficult to know how exactly they can help. They have their experiences in dealing with terrorism in conflict areas, but not in urban areas like Mumbai,” Brigadier Singh explained, adding, “They would normally enforce the cordoning off operation to make sure there are no escapes.  They use fairly sophisticated weaponry to either finish or flush out the targets.”

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