A series of devastating coordinated terror attacks in Mumbai, India, which killed over 170 people and wounded approximately 300, is the latest act of terrorism to specifically include Jews outside Israel among its targets.
At least ten armed militants attacked several locations frequented by tourists throughout Mumbai, including a railway station, a popular restaurant, a hospital, two hotels and a Jewish Center.
The attack, which lasted three days beginning on the evening of November 26, 2008, claimed the lives of at least 22 Westerners, including six Americans and four Israelis, and more than 100 Indians.
Gunmen killed six Jews - four Israelis, an American and a Mexican - at the Nariman House, the Mumbai headquarters of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. During the two-day standoff, the hostages were reportedly tortured by their captors before they were bound together and killed. Three of the victims at the Nariman House managed to escape, including an Israeli man and a two-year-old boy with his nanny.
In addition to the Nariman House, the militants held hostages at the Oberoi-Trident hotel and the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. They also attacked the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, the Cama and Albless Hospital, the Café Leopold and the State Bank of India.
A previously unknown group calling itself Deccan Mujahideen sent an e-mail to news organizations claiming responsibility for the attacks, but officials are skeptical of this claim. Some observers suggest the attacks may be linked to the Indian Mujahedeen, an Islamist terror group that claimed responsibility for a series of blasts in November 2007 in Uttar Pradesh and for attacks in the Indian cities of New Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad in 2008. In September 2008, the group sent an e-mail saying that Mumbai was its next target.
Nine of the gunmen were killed, and one, Mohammed Ajmal Mohammed Amir Kasab, was captured by Indian authorities. On May 3, 2010, Kasab, a 22-year-old Pakistani national, was convicted of most of the 86 charges filed against him, including waging war against India, murder and various terrorism offenses. Three days later, Kasab was sentenced to death.
Kasab reportedly told authorities that he belongs to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a Pakistani-based terrorist organization linked to Al Qaeda. Kasab admitted that he and the other gunmen trained at LET camps in Pakistan for about six months before carrying out the planned attacks. At the terrorist training camp, the men allegedly learned close-combat techniques, hostage-taking, handling explosives, satellite navigation and high-seas survival skills.
Kasab also reportedly told Indian authorities that Israelis were specifically targeted to avenge atrocities on Palestinians, which is why they targeted the Nariman House. Some of the gunmen allegedly previously stayed in the Nariman House on a rental basis, identifying themselves as Malaysian students.
Pakistan has denied Indian investigators' claims that the Mumbai attackers underwent months of training at camps run by LET, saying no such proof had been provided. LET has also denied any involvement in the attacks.
While LET denies involvement, in December 2009, federal authorities charged American citizen David Coleman Headley for allegedly helping LET members to plan the attacks. According to court documents, LET tasked Headley with conducting surveillance of a number of the targeted locations. Headley posed as a Jew during a July 2008 visit to the Nariman House, according to Indian news sources.
In addition to Headley's involvement in the Mumbai attack, he also reportedly conducted reconnaissance of other Jewish locations, including Chabad houses and other Jewish centers in Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Pune and Pushkar in March 2009. Indian new sources have reported that Headley stayed in hotels near the alleged targets and posed as a Jew to gain access to a number of the Jewish centers he scouted. Headley has also been implicated in working with LET to plot attacks in Denmark and Bangladesh.
India has long suffered terror attacks. Mumbai has been attacked six times since 1993, including in 2006, when over 160 people were killed by attacks on the city's rail transit.
Islamic terrorists have targeted Western tourists, killing hundreds of civilians at resorts, hotels and other tourist locations, for many years. Casualties have often been very high, including not only tourists, but the local population as well.
In addition to the human toll, terrorists prey on people's safety and security concerns, which keeps tourists away and significantly damages foreign investment in many developing countries. This economic damage is part of a larger terrorist agenda to destabilize governments, foment chaos and challenge the legitimacy of ruling regimes.
Israeli and Jewish interests are often specifically targeted as well. In recent years, Al Qaeda has renewed its call for attacks on Israel and Jewish interests. In May 2008, for example, Osama bin Laden released an audio statement warning, "We will continue, God permitting, the fight against the Israelis and their allies." Al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, threatened Israel and "Jewish interests" in April 2008, in a 90-minute audio message billed as the first installment of responses to more than 900 questions submitted on Web sites commonly used by Islamic militants. In this message, Zawahiri endorsed "every operation against Jewish interests" and promised to "strive as much as we can to deal blows to the Jews inside Israel and outside it, with Allah's help and guidance."
These threats against Israel and Jews by Al Qaeda come at a time when Hezbollah has also threatened to attack Israeli targets abroad. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared "open war" on Israel in February 2008, threatening "Zionists, if you wanted open war, let it be an open war anywhere."