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The War Nerd / December 9, 2008

Every day this week I’ve gone to the computer and googled the same question: “How many attackers Mumbai?” And I still haven’t gotten anything like a straight answer. Of course the official Indian story is “ten.” Right. Ten guys, kids by the look of them in the closed-circuit tv pictures, did all that? Well…that’s not actually impossible. I’m not one of these people that underestimate the bloodlust and craziness of ten teenagers with some basic training, a good plan, AKs with plenty of ammo, and heads full of cocaine’n’Quran. That’s a powerful cocktail, that cocaine/Quran mix. They’ll have to come up with a good street name for it, something like Mecca-chino. Keeps you awake and firing for two days straight.

Some parts of the story have been pretty well confirmed, like the guess that these guys were Kashmiris from Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. I suspected that’s what these Mumbaikar eyewitnesses were hinting at when they described the attackers as “pale” and “foreign-looking.” If you’ve seen their pictures, you’ll see they weren’t exactly pale by, say, Scottish standards, but to Mumbaikars they did look pale, like Kashmiris from up there where you have to wear a sweater a few weeks a year. Then there was the fact that the attackers carried almonds to munch. Almonds are the “State Tree” of Kashmir, believe it or not.

But as for numbers, that’s where the official story wears kind of thin. Ten guys did all that? Excuse me if I snicker. Of course the Mumbai police and Indian government would like to stick to that number because they only have nine bodies and one live prisoner. So if there were only ten guys, total, then they’re all accounted for, it’s a wrap, and we can all go on with our lives and drop embarrassing questions about where the rest went. Not to mention how come it took so long for the anti-terrorist Black Cats (Dudes, change that name!) to arrive, etc.

Unfortunately for the Delhi bureaucrats, there’s a very good source, this ex-CIA analyst lady named Farhana Ali, who says she has definite info that there were at least 23 attackers.

That sounds like a more reasonable number to me. And the evidence keeps piling up for a big attacking force, like the fact that they’ve discovered a second dinghy used to ferry the attackers into the city from their hijacked trawler.

And then of course there’s the fact that they did so much damage in so many different locations. That’s what made me guess, in the column I wrote while the attacks were in progress, that there were probably about 70 attackers.

When I wrote that, I took the news reports of ten different sites that had been attacked to mean that there were ten separate sieges taking place in different locations in Mumbai. It turns out that, because the cops turned and ran like rabbits at the first shots, the attackers were able to walk down the middle of the damn street from one attack to the next, throwing grenades and shooting everyone in sight, like the two cokehead jihadis who walked into Leopold’s café, killed everyone they could, then strolled over to the Taj Mahal Hotel complex.

But were those two the only attackers in the Taj Mahal? If you were watching the news, you’ll remember that this is one of those incredibly gigantic old stone hotels that take up a whole city block. The place is solid and huge; no matter how many grenades went off in there, no matter how many fires started, it held up through days of fighting. It’s hard to imagine that two kids who strolled over from the café held it by themselves, especially since there’s also a story going around that the attackers had an inside confederate who was working in the Taj’s kitchen. (I can’t find the link for that story. Anybody got one?)

It’ll take a while for us to get a really solid number for the attackers. Too many people in authority in Mumbai and Delhi and Islamabad have reasons to keep the picture blurry for now. One thing that’s clear is that for all this talk about hi-tech “force multipliers,” these guys gave the whole world a lesson in how to multiply a miserable force, half a platoon of half-trained kids, into something with the power of a tactical nuke. Ten village kids from Kashmir gave a whole huge city a stroke it’ll take years to recover from, with a simple set of tactics. You may not like these tactics, but we’d better notice them. This habit of “It’s not moral so I’ll pretend it isn’t happening” really gets me down. So like it or not, listen up: the attacks showed what a lot of hostage-taking urban sieges have shown already: if you’re going to do one of these sieges, you have to kill ruthlessly, kill everyone in the enemy city from the moment you jam your clip in to the moment you die. Don’t ask questions, don’t ask who’s a Muslim (at least 40 Muslims were killed in Mumbai; these dudes weren’t counting turbans); kill everyone. Then hole up in the highest-value target you can find, because by doing that you, the half-trained guerrilla kid, go from a low-value military asset to a very high-value one. You take on the value of the target, because they’ll have to destroy it to get you.

If you think that’s an exaggeration or something, here’s a quote from the instructions the Mumbai attackers were given:

“…open random fire, kill as many people as you can, take hostages, then go to a vantage location and stay put.”


Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to

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Add your own

  • 1. xyz  |  December 9th, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Gary, There was a siege in 3 places – Taj, Oberoi and the Jewish center. A small well armed group is enough to hold 3 places. Granted 10 is a small number but is plausible. The Taj and Oberoi were not completely under siege as the police and the black cats roamed the lower floors quite freely. What held back the police from completely storming the building early on was 1. the fear that building was booby trapped and 2. civilian casualties. There were civilians locked up in many rooms right until the last minute and distinguishing them from the terrorists would have been a nightmare.

    The bomb threat was reasonable too since RDX was discovered. Even after the operation was over, the bodies and debris were not quickly cleared for fear that they could be booby trapped.

    But it is unofficially admitted by everybody in India that there could have been more attackers who escaped with into the crowds, but definitely not 70. 70 is an unwieldy number that war nerds used to dreaming up american style battles with overwhelming numbers dream of. It is also unofficially admitted that all attackers may not be Pakistani. Nobody said they are kashmiri, unless you get your news from Pakistan. Everybody in India knows that some these terrorists could have been Indian muslims, non Kashmiri muslims. Besides many Indian muslims would have to be involved in the planning and logistics.

    Farhana Ali says quote – ” her information came from Pakistan” unquote. Pakistan has launched a media blitz to cover up its role, has been doing this since the 80s actually. And they have been successful in fooling state department and war nerd alike. Considering that Farhana Ali’s center of counter terrorism webpage says it all. Pakistan is an important ally in the war against terror and the center has to protect this theory. Simple. Nobody seems to realise that Pakistan is the epicenter of terror.

  • 2. Rob  |  December 9th, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Hi Gary, love the column.

    I was wondering if you were going to write anything about the recent attacks on Coalition convoys transporting materiel into Afghanistan (on the Pakistani side of the border)? According to todays Guardian they destroyed 145 vehicles in one raid this sunday.

  • 3. slkjfsldkfj  |  December 9th, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Backed yourself into a corner with the 70 figure? Why is the potential of a small group of determined guys to cause mayhem always discounted? Ten guys is plenty. I didn’t hear it was only two in the Taj but it wouldn’t surprise me. Two guys did Columbine, and the only reason that whole high school building wasn’t Taj-ed in the name of cops retiring to Key West in one piece was bc Harris and Klebold checked out before the last stand.

  • 4. John Thomas  |  December 9th, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Outside of Dot Patel and Vikash Singh, who cares?

    You could kill 300 million of them, and they’d still have a billion people left. Wake me when they discover birth control or you have something interesting to write about, like Putin dying of bone cancer.

  • 5. Baked Dr. Luny  |  December 9th, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I can see where Gary could guess such a high number, seeing as many similar shootouts result in far fewer deaths than what has been reported here. The difference here was that these guys probably knew how to shoot. The Indian police must have really sucked it up. It didn’t even look like these guys had body armor, it’s remarkable that these guys didn’t run into a decent cop with a handgun while they were walking around in the open. Even with a pistol, with a little luck you’d have a decent chance at taking a pair of these guys out. My favorite part from the whole incident is when they hijacked the police van and shot up the crowd in front of the hotel. The police all dived out of the way without firing a shot. It still seems like there should have been more of them, the whole thing seems a little bit too rambo for ten guys to pull off.

  • 6. Jack  |  December 9th, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Yea…you should do something on this (;_ylt=Ak5ht1xLSaiaPNZDE36PCIXZn414)

  • 7. Alok  |  December 9th, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Indian police are generally not armed with firearms, unless they are part of the armed reserve, or the situation specifically demands that they are.

    That said, Indian cops are terribly underfunded, undertrained and undermanned. The politicians don’t really give a shit because they have assured security from armed cops from the paramilitary forces. Plus, humiliating and debasing honest and hardworking cops is one of the favourite pastimes of anyone holding political office.

    Everyone knows what precisely needs to be done, but they won’t because then they wouldn’t be able to engage in a profitable money-spinning exercise (the infamous politician -criminal-cop nexus) and a useful pastime.

    In the meantime we’ll get some sabre-rattling and responsibility dodging to deal with. It suits them just fine that people are getting angry at Pakistan or arguing about how many attackers there were.

  • 8. Geo8rge  |  December 9th, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    According to WP at columbine 2 attackers – 13 dead – 24 injured. Multiplying by 5 gets 10 attackers and 65 dead.

    I can easily see 10 gunmen being more effective than 2. The Mumbai attackers had better weapons and training. Their targets were slow middle aged diliettantes, not agile teenage dilettantes.

    A single attacker at Virgina Tech, in a show of east asian work ethic, killed 32, so 10x is 320. He had 2 pistols. His targets were however sedated university students.

    So I think 10 attackers and 200 dead is reasonable given the Columbine – VTech experience. He Brecher, a table with data extrapolated to 10 attackers would be a nice starting point for an article.

    BTW, I think 5 Chechens could have done the same, but I’m an anti south asian racist.

  • 9. Rob  |  December 9th, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    70 guys? Dude.. it would take 70 guys to pull that shit somewhere badassed like Texas. But this is India you’re talking about. Indian leaders love cows, hate violence and wear nothing but pampers. Google Gandhi for an example.

  • 10. wengler  |  December 9th, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    The only force multipliers here were the who and where of the attacks. They attacked rich people where they play. That is what made it a big deal.

  • 11. fireclown  |  December 9th, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    gary is 100% on target when he says that ten is how many there were because ten is how many are in custody. Similarly on the mark isthe fact that the Taj is one big momma jamma of a hotel that will take more than 2 or 4 guys to handle, no matter how miserable the security is.

    However the behavior of rounding up specific groups speaks to a certain level of training that may well be higher than what you could expect out of illiterate goat humpers.

  • 12. Kyle  |  December 9th, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Seventy huh? Not bad for a theory. And then they pulled a fast one aka Spike Lee’s thriller ‘The Inside Man’. Tough luck to the one that didn’t get away.

    Brilliant plan!

  • 13. wYSe Guy  |  December 9th, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    “…cops turned and ran like rabbits at the first shots”


    Bombay’s 18 million and Karachi is 15 million.

    When we see shootouts, the police grab cover and in 40 seconds, if its not 7 to 1, they’re shooting back!

    WTF Bombay Cops?

  • 14. LB  |  December 9th, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    For fucks sake, he said he got the 70 figure from looking at different news reports, he was not fucking defending the figure, just explaining where he got it from. You wankers need to learn how to comprehend textual information

    As an aside, that Farhana Ali wench is the hottest counter terrorism expert I know of:

  • 15. Plamen Petkov  |  December 10th, 2008 at 12:58 am

    No shit, Jose! the official
    story doesn’t add up, again. Again. Soon it will totally collapse. Why aren’t you talking about all the other stuff that doesn’t make sense?
    13 targets, 10 people? Muslims wearing red threads on their wrists? Who benefits from a war between India and Pakistan? The corporates owned media insisting Westerners specifically Americans and British were targets when only 20 people out of 158 dead were foreigners? I talk about all this shite on MY web site.

    Its all the same again. Same as 9/11, same as the UK attacks, same as Span attacks, same as all the current attacks in the last 10 years by “Muslim terrorists”. Somebody is being duped here and it ain’t me.

    What I really wanna know is what’s in Afghanistan so BOTH Russia and US wants it SO damn bad. Write an article about this Gary if you are so smart and enlighten me.

  • 16. bogatir  |  December 10th, 2008 at 3:32 am

    You wrote about an Indian ship wacking a pirate vessel before.

    Answer to a possible “Qui Bono”: (Who benefits?)

    Oraganize an amphibious attack as happened and show this “Indian upstarts” that they can’t defend their own coastline.

    In my opinion the two relate.

    Gongrast on your articles I liked them all so far

  • 17. Asiretleri raporu  |  December 10th, 2008 at 4:31 am

    CIA-Backed Syndicate in Mumbai Attacks

    More evidence of CIA-backed syndicate involvement in Mumbai attacks

    Asian intelligence sources have provided additional information on the wave of terrorist attacks in Mumbai

    The violence that is sweeping Mumbai´s tourist and business areas is the work of rival Hindu nationalist terrorists and Muslim gangs, according to WMR´s Asian intelligence sources.

    Scores have been killed and hundreds injured in the violence that swept India´s financial capital. Although the “Indian Mujahedin” and “Al Qaeda in India” are the corporate media´s suspects in the violence, the attacks have more to do with score settling and a warning by a CIA asset and Muslim-Hindu gang violence.

    In the past, Mumbai´s exiled Muslim “Mafia” boss, on-and-off again CIA asset Dawood Ibrahim, a veteran of the CIA´s mujahedin war in Afghanistan and who is now living in exile in Karachi, Pakistan, and is wanted by Indian authorities, has the street muscle in Mumbai to stop further violence. Ibrahim owns a construction company in Karachi, has financial interests in Dubai, and is, according to our intelligence sources, involved with the CIA in Kathmandu casinos and the drug trade in Nepal. The CIA has shown no inclination to apprehend Ibrahim and with the Hindu nationalists making a power play in Mumbai with attempted “false flag” attacks, Ibrahim has shown no desire to stop the violence.

    The Wayne Madsen Report / by Wayn Madsen

  • 18. Tubalkain  |  December 10th, 2008 at 6:13 am

    What the former ISI chief said on CNN is probably old news by now, and not particularly original, still interesting, not big interview givers, ISI chiefs.

    What I find curious both in terms that it happened and how downplayed it was is that the attackers killed chief of anti-terrorist squad and 2 other top cops and the detail, almost as an afterthought. Story is, as they were driving in their car the attackers stepped from behind the trees and unloaded their AK47s, then dragged the bodies out and took the car and used it for escape. Not sure your average LETs are capable of that, almost makes it look Karkare was the primary target.

  • 19. Kyle  |  December 10th, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Plamen Petkov – Dude, I went over and took a look at your blog. First-off, you’ve got some serious typos there. Second, oh wait, you’re deliberately doing that to sound humorously serious, yes?

    Man, where’d you come-off with all those theories, no seriously? Dude, are you intel?

    And to answer your question about Afghanistan, there’s nothing there except weed & grass. But then again, it’s also a strategic asset where they wanna lay down a pipeline to siphon-off all the gas from the neighboring ‘stans’ 😉

  • 20. mombasa  |  December 10th, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Gary, shut off your senses on the first day did ya ?

    those guys are from kashmir ?

    you yourself on cocaine or something ?


    the guy who was caught is from faridkot. google for it. a reporter from UK telegraph visited the place and confirmed it.

    moreover these guys were trained by the SSG and the pak navy, certainly not your average shit headed abdul.

  • 21. Dennis Foley  |  December 10th, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Seems some of you are Misreading what Mr. Brecher Said. He did not say he believes there were 10 attackers.Nor does he say he gave the original figure of 70 from reading someone elss comments. he says quite clearly that was his assesment, and as an initial assesment it was not a bad guess.I think the assumption Mr nerd went on was that these boys still “had dirt under their fingernails from the plowshares” and were essentially an attempt to make the best use of the available resources, considering the limitations, as far as employing this large pool of available assets in an effective manner.This was before it came to light that this particular group had undergone 18 months training.70 was not an unfair assumption based on what was known to be readily available manpower.
    It sounds to me that he believes 23 was a more accurate number, I myself believe a few more than that ran out of ammo and simply disappeared into the local populace.
    It was in fact a beautiful example of assymetric warfare (or 4th generation warfare), as originally envisaged by the 2 Chink Red Army Colonels who originally came up with the idea, the whole system of warfare as practiced by Al-Qaeda.

    The basic assumption that someone in the ISI knew and condoned and helped with coordination I believe is also accurate( I don’t believe it was sanctioned by the Pakistani govt perse). Reading accounts it is clear that there was in fact a strong local element involved.There was an ongoing battle between the local chief of police( who got blowed away)and the area muslim punks. while i do not so much believe it was carried out by area forces, the local conflict probably heaviliy influenced both the site and timing of the attacks. As far as some local goon with CIA connections being behind the attacks, i doubt it, half the ISI has CIA connections, doesnt mean they serve our interests.I wouldnt doubt, however that he was aware of the attacks beforehand, ind may have agitated for them.

    I’d also like to mention the fact that i dont think its mere coincidence that the Indian navy sank a ship it beleived to be a ” Pirate Mothership” right before this all happened.As the commander of the Samar stated, they had “intelligence” that such a vessel was operatingin the area( yeah, its kinda far apart)but i cant help but wonder if the reports that we supposedly gave the new dehli govt concerning a likely attack, “seaborne” i might add, didnt figure into the mind of the captain of the Samar before he blew a Thai fishing boat out of the water.

  • 22. Dr. J  |  December 10th, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I think Wayne Madsen is right on the money.
    Who cars how many knuckleheads shot the place? What I want to know is who set the whole plan in the first place. The CIA-bred, Mafia-made Ibrahim, who previously organized sea-based attacks sounds like the brains and the money. Why? If peace broke out his ass would be the first in an Indian slammer. Think of all the shit he’d have to say about the US role in all the south Asian BS. Look how quickly we rushed to string up Saadam so he would shut the f*** up after we caught his ass.

    Like I said, Wayne’s got a good angle on the Who while you all debate the How.

  • 23. SBG  |  December 10th, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    To Wayne Madsen and supporters:

    (btw, “Wayne Madsen” sounds as if you’re either from east buttfuck texas or dressed as batman)

    Understand that Ibrahim and Indian muslim mafia ilk have a different agenda from the international muslim extremist jihad. This is clearly an expression of the latter, with Kashmir serving as the “muslim territory under siege from various crusaders.”

    Ibrahim/Indian muslim mafia would not cut off their noses to spite their faces by sabotaging the very international business they extort most of their money from in Bombay.

    But they bombed the city and killed several hundred you say? The targets there were everyday Hindu rioters who massacred muslims in the slums, not international businessmen. Ibrahim et al have no beef with international business/wealth creation Indians/industries except to extort money from them indirectly.

  • 24. Tolga Ismen  |  December 11th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I do not know how many were there. I am sure it is more than 10 and less than 70 but it was an excellent assult. Nearly as good as 9/11. As War Nerd stated we should not ignore them because they are not moral. On the contarary, we should take the inmoral assults more seriously. What would happen if it was Istanbul or Dubai or Rotterdam? What will happen when they attack the pipelines and refineries at the same time? We should be prepared as citizens and the community, there is only little the state can do. Good luck anyone that will be stuck in the next attack.

  • 25. Simon  |  December 11th, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Like I said in your ’70’ column, 20 or so still seems plausible. I’d be surprised if there were less than 15 marines, plus a few pre-placements who hooked up with them.

  • 26. John Smith  |  December 11th, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Bah, less conspiracy crap, more of the interesting historical warwarfare information.

  • 27. Jackson Coltrane  |  December 13th, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I’m disappointed in you, “Gary.” You’re normally so much more than your average basement-dwelling conspiracy theorist who looks for things that seem “unlikely” and see cover stories in every official pronouncement. Ten guys could have done it – they had the advantage of surprise and were operating in a civilian setting (which, incidentally, is good reason to drop the semi-glorifying tone – even if you don’t have any respect for the targets the terrorists are attacking, the terrorists themselves are still jousting at windmills – human, mostly innocent windmills). I’m not saying it couldn’t have been more guys. I’m not saying the Indians aren’t covering something up. I am saying you didn’t have much to write about.

  • 28. kaangeya  |  December 14th, 2008 at 5:10 pm


    The cops didn’t turn tail and run. they chased two of the guys out of the train station, and set up a road block, taking down one of them, and capturing the other one alive, beating him up with a lathi – a wooden (now fiber glass) staff that is about 120 cms long and hurts like heck. It’s all on TV and YouTube. check it out. The 10 piglets were taken aback when the cops fired back and thrashed them.

  • 29. winning at casino keno  |  January 19th, 2009 at 4:40 am

    I think India government (especially, Sonia govt.) does not have the political or international power to deal with this scenario. India is a soft nation and so can be easily pushed around. Look at the terror attacks one after the another. The latest example is The latest example is Mumbai…:(

  • 30. mx?  |  February 22nd, 2009 at 5:53 am

    great stuff like always

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