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US spies killed in serial attacks, experts
begin to debate nuke security
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: Though Indian government has refrained to drag Islamabad directly into the Mumbai terror attacks, insinuations suggest that fresh strains on the diplomatic relations between the two countries are on cards once again. It is believed that terrorists have identified and then killed two senior American intelligence officers who were staying at the posh Taj Palace Hotel on the shores of the Arabian Sea.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in his address to the nation pricked Pakistan thrice without naming it. The security agencies here told newsmen that they suspected the role of al Qaeda, the international terrorist network of Osama bin Laden, and Pakistan military intelligence agency, Inter-State Intelligence (ISI).
They believed that their suspicion arose from the way the terrorists captured Taj Hotel and successfully identified two senior American intelligence officials by checking passports of the foreigners who were staying there, sources said.
Both the officials were among eight foreigners gunned down and the White House has expressed concern over their assassination, wondering how their presence in Mumbai could be known to the terrorists.
Al Qaeda is known for mounting this kind of suicidal attacks and hence Washington has asked for probing its suicidal squads' role, particularly since reports suggest the culprits were specifically looking for the two American officials.
Intelligence officials here said that only ISI could have known their identity and movements and hence they say it may have passed on the information to the terrorists who came looking for them in the hotel. They said this suspicion got more credence from interrogation of the captured terrorists revealing that they were Pakistani nationals and sneaked into Mumbai using speed boats.
Notwithstanding Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil saying there was no intelligence whatsoever about the dastardly attack in Mumbai, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) sources claimed the warning about a possible entry of terrorists into India's financial capital through the sea route was made six months ago.
"This intelligence was available six months ago and subsequently a barge was found by the locals on Shrivardhan coast in Raigad district four months back," says a top IB official who did not wish to be identified. Locals had feared the barge might have ferried explosives, though nothing was found when the Naval and customs personnel inspected it.
All the same, the Maharashtra Government and the Coast Guards were alerted to keep an eye on terrorists sneaking into Mumbai or any nearby coast or using the coast to smuggle in weapons and ammunition, the official said. He said similar alerts were also issued to the state governments of Gujarat, Goa and Karnataka to secure their coasts from any suspicious activity.
Following the Mumbai attacks touted as highly precise in planning and execution, experts here are also now debating at the safety of nuclear arsenal in South Asia. It was a matter of chance that these terrorists chose to attack five-star hotels than the nuclear facility at Trombay, few kilometers away.
Former sleuth B. Raman in his daily column here writes that his mind boggles to think and figure out how the terrorists could have planned and carried out terrorist strikes of such magnitude, territorial spread and ferocity without our intelligence and police having been able to get scent of it. He said India has become now as clueless as Pakistan in fighting terrorism. "Till now, we were greeting with glee Pakistan's incompetence in dealing with terrorism. We can no longer do so. We have become as clueless as Pakistan," he added.
Meanwhile, Indian Coast Guards have found the ship MV Alpha, suspected to have carried the perpetrators around 112 km away from Mumbai in high seas. The Coast Guard had launched two aircraft, choppers and its vessels after receiving information that the ship could have carried the terrorists from Gujarat to Mumbai.