Mumbai 2008 terror attacks: the key questions

Mumbai: Ten years ago next week militants from Pakistan laid siege to India’s financial capital Mumbai for three days, killing 166 people and injuring hundreds more.

Here is a recap of the coordinated terror attacks and their aftermath:

– What happened? –

Shortly after 8:00 pm (1430 GMT) on Wednesday November 26, 2008, 10 extremists landed a dinghy at a fishing district in the south of Mumbai after travelling from Karachi by sea.

En route they had hijacked an Indian fishing trawler, killing four crew members before throwing their bodies overboard and slitting the captain’s throat.

The attackers — armed with AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades — disembarked the dinghy, split into groups of two and headed to their carefully chosen targets.

Mohammed Kasab, who would be the only gunman caught alive, and Ismail Khan went to the city’s main railway station where they killed almost 60 people, wounding at least 100 others.

They also shot dead six police officers, including the head of Mumbai’s anti-terrorism squad, and tried to kill patients at the Cama & Albless Hospital.

A short distance away in the popular tourist district of Colaba two other attackers killed around 10 people, including foreigners, at the Leopold Cafe.

– How did the attacks unfold? –

The pair then walked around the corner to the luxury Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel where they joined up with another two militants.

Over the course of three days the four shot dead guests, detonated explosives and set parts of the hotel, including its iconic dome, on fire.

The dramatic scenes played out on TV news channels around the world as Indian commandos battled the heavily armed gunmen and guests tried to escape out of windows using bed sheets.

India’s security forces only retook control of the hotel on the morning of November 29, 60 hours after the attack started.

Thirty-one people, mainly guests and hotel staff were killed. Around 300 were evacuated.

At a nearby Jewish cultural and religious centre two attackers took six hostages, including the centre’s rabbi and his pregnant wife. They did not survive.

Meanwhile, a couple of kilometres away at the Oberoi and Trident hotels two attackers left more than 30 dead in a 42-hour siege featuring shootings, explosions and hostage-taking.

Overall, 166 people died and more than 300 were wounded.

– Who was responsible? –

India blames Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), accusing leaders Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi of masterminding the attacks.

The LeT is considered a terror outfit by major Western countries and the US has announced a $10-million bounty for Saeed over his alleged role in the atrocity.

India has long said that “official agencies” in Pakistan, a reference to the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), were also involved in plotting the attacks.

Islamabad denies this charge.

In 2013, US-Pakistani national David Coleman Headley was sentenced by a Chicago court to 35 years in a US prison after he admitted scouting targets, including the Taj Hotel.

He has told Indian prosecutors that he also worked for ISI and that there was a close nexus between the spy agency and LeT, an allegation Pakistan refutes.

Kasab was tried by a special Indian court. During his trial he detailed how he and the nine other gunmen were trained in Pakistan.

He was found guilty of most of the 86 charges against him, including murder and waging war against India, and was hanged at Yerwada prison in Pune city on November 21, 2012.

– What was the fallout? –

The attacks soured already strained relations between India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

Islamabad’s refusal to hand over Saeed and Lakhvi remains a continual source of friction between the nuclear rivals.

Cricket ties between the two have been frozen since the violence. The cricket-mad countries have not met in a Test match since 2007.

Analysts say the tactics deployed by the Mumbai attackers, where a small group of heavily-armed militants strike several soft targets simultaneously, are believed to have inspired the November 2015 Paris attacks and the 2013 assault on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.