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Saturday, 29 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 29 Nov

It was Armed Forces all the way
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 28
The counter-terrorism operations in Mumbai are almost entirely the work of the Indian Armed Forces or its highly skilled men on deputation with the elite national security guards (NSG).

Roles of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and the Indian Air Force emerged crucial in countering the attacks of the militants holed up in two hotels in Mumbai.

The NSG used its special operations group (SOG) formed by drawing men from the Indian Army. Even though the Army men are attached with the NSG on deputation, their core department is the Indian Army. The only difference is that the NSG chief reports to the home ministry. In fact, the NSG commando who died in the attack, was Major Sandeep the Army. The other NSG commando to lose his life was havildar Chander.

The Army was the first to reach the site of the attack as it despatched 800 of its highly skilled men from its fighting Infantry units. Officials refused to tell which Regiment was used citing secrecy, but added they were hand picked for counter terrorism operations. The operations in Mumbai were being co-ordinated by joint headquarters that was being co-ordinated by the GOC Maharashtra area Maj Gen R.K. Hooda and Vice-Admiral J.S. Bedi.

The Army formed the outer cordon, the inner cordon and also its men were alongside the NSG in the close cordon to tackle the terrorists. The close co-ordination operations were led by NSG chief J.K. Dutt. Army commandos were added to augment the NSG and not replace it, sources in the Army headquarters here clarified.

The Navy and the Coast Guard chipped in when the Navy sent its skilled marine commandos (Marcos) last night. The sources say the number could be close to 2,000 personnel. The leader of the Marcos even addressed the media with his face covered and black glasses on. The Navy also sent two warships, choppers and dorniers to locate a suspected ship. The Navy operation was launched to locate a ship — M V Alpha — that was found 112 km away from Mumbai. The IAF flew in transport aircraft from Chandigarh and Agra among other places in the dead of the night and this morning dropped NSG commandos using helicopters.

NSG men were very professional: US couple

Mumbai, November 28
“We didn’t see the terrorists. But we felt their rage.” This is how American couple Bruce and Petty described their 26-hour-long harrowing experience in the confines of their room on the 17th floor of the Taj Mahal Hotel here, which was under siege by terrorists.

The couple, along with a Chinese, a South African and an Australian national, was rescued from the hotel by the elite National Security Guards (NSG) late last night.

“There was blood sprayed all over the floor. It was really messy. I didn’t want to see it,” said Bruce recounting their ordeal.

The couple, who were all praise for the NSG commandos, said that there was no water and the place was covered with debris.

“It’s wonderful to be safe in life but it is sad to see what happened,” Bruce said.

Despite their brush with terror, the couple is eager to “keep coming back” to India which is a “magical country.” — PTI

After blunt talk by PM, ISI chief to visit India
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

In an unprecedented move, Pakistan today agreed to send the chief of its main spy agency to New Delhi for sharing intelligence with Indian counterparts amid persistent accusations that Mumbai attackers had come from Karachi.

The decision to send Lt Gen Shujaa Pasha, director general of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), was taken by country’s top leadership in a meeting after both President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani separately spoke to Indian premier Manmohan Singh to assure him full cooperation in the investigations for unveiling all facts behind the Mumbai bloodbath.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the “request for dispatching the ISI chief came from Manmohan Singh for the exchange of information”. A press release from the PMO recalled that the Indian Prime Minister was the first foreign leader to call Gilani soon after the deadly Marriott blast in Islamabad on September 20 last and offered all possible cooperation.

Gilani talked to Manmohan Singh early this morning after which President Zardari also rang up the Indian leader. Later, both Zardari and Gilani held an emergency meeting and decided to promptly respond to the request for sending the ISI chief. The modalities for Gen Pasha’s visit were set in motion immediately and officials said he may leave for New Delhi any time within next 48 hours.

With tensions mounting between the two neighbours in the wake of Indian accusations, Pakistan’s friends also moved in to press the Pakistani leadership to take concrete action to allay Indian suspicions. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice called Zardari late Thursday night to urge him for taking early steps to avert the evolving dangerous escalation.

Many analysts likened the current mood in India to that prevailing in the wake of December 13, 2001, attack on Indian Parliament after which India massed nearly half a million troops on Pakistan’s borders, raising a grave threat of even a nuclear war.

In their conversation with Manmohan Singh, Zaradri and Gilani reiterated strong condemnation of the “detestable” acts of terrorism in Mumbai. When Manmohan Singh pointed out that preliminary investigations had revealed that the terrorists, who appear to have been well trained and equipped for a highly sophisticated operation they launched in Mumbai, had come from Pakistan, Zardari asserted that Pakistan itself was a victim of terror.

The President appreciated the fact that the Indian Prime Minister had sought the ISI chief’s visit for the exchange of information and emphasised that both countries had common interest to confront the terrorists.

Though both governments have been talking about evolving a common strategy for combating terrorism, this is the first significant move by India to suggest a personal visit by the chief of the ISI, which the Indian government and the defence establishment have often blamed of masterminding acts of terrorism in India.

Manmohan Singh in his address to the nation on Thursday stopped short of naming Pakistan as the source of Mumbai attacks and referred only to India’s “neighbours”. But external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee today categorically stated that the attackers had come from Karachi.

The Indian civil and military security officials and the media also pointed the finger towards Pakistan.

A former chief of ISI, Lt Gen Asad Durrani (retd) termed as “unprecedented and odd” the move to send Gen Pasha to India saying it carried certain unpalatable implications strengthening the insinuations.

He said if the Indians had any evidence this could be examined by experts from both sides after which a top level visit could be arranged. “However, it is the prerogative of the government to take even unusual steps to deal with a situation”, he said.

Black Friday for Unnikrishnan family

National Security Guards commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan who died while battling terrorists in Taj Hotel on Friday.

National Security Guards commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan who died while battling terrorists in Taj Hotel on Friday.

Bangalore, November 28

It was a black Friday for the Unnikrishnan family as news of their 31-year-old son, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, on deputation with the NSG, being killed in terror operation strike in Mumbai filtered in here this morning.

Sandeep, who passed out from Frank Anthony School in Bangalore and was later commissioned in the Bihar Regiment in 1999, was among the brave armed forced personnel who laid down their lives in the strike against terrorists in Mumbai.

“The family has been inconsolable. Both his mother and sister continue to be shell-shocked”, said S.K. Krishnan, a close family friend and a former colleague of Sandeep’s father at ISRO. Sandeep’s father Unnikrishnan had retired from the Department of Space at ISRO.

“The family had no idea that Sandeep was part of the operation in Mumbai. He had not informed his family about the operation owing to security reasons”, he said.

“However, we did feel he could have been part of the operation as large number of NSG contingents had been called in to flush out the terrorists and free hostages,” he said.

“The news was received when a personnel contacted us and television news confirmed our worst fears”, he said. — PTI

India can't summon our head spy: Pak Oppn

Press Trust of India

Friday, November 28, 2008 11:13 PM (Islamabad)

Pakistani opposition parties on Friday slammed the PPP-led government for its decision to send ISI chief to India to share the information on intelligence, saying that it amounted to "summoning" of the spy agency's head by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"The blame game is not the answer to such incidents and it appeared awkward that the ISI chief was going to India almost at the Indian Prime Minister's summoning," opposition PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal said.

Iqbal said the Pakistan government had acted in haste and should instead have offered to form a "joint task force with equal responsibility".

He said that India had in the past blamed Pakistan for terrorist attacks but subsequent probes had shown they were carried out by "internal groups".

Opposition PML-Q and Jamaat-e-Islami also criticised the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani government's decision. PML-Q spokesman Tariq Azeem claimed India was resorting to "a knee jerk reaction by blaming Pakistan instead of carrying out a thorough investigation".

The decision to send ISI chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha to India came after the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that investigators had found involvement of Pakistan-based elements in the attacks in Mumbai.

He told Gilani that Pakistan should send its ISI chief to New Delhi "to cooperate in the investigations of the Mumbai attack and for sharing certain information".

Pakistan agreed to Singh's proposal and said Pasha would travel to New Delhi soon, for which modalities would be worked out by the two sides.

Centre must restore pay parity

We are shocked to read Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar’s statement that it would be difficult for the government to give pay parity to the defence forces (Nov 24). Instead of appreciating the genuine demands put up by the three Service Chiefs and ex-servicemen, he has chosen to throw a red herring in the case.

What is preventing the government from rectifying the anomalies created by the sixth pay panel report? The defence forces must get their status and emoluments that existed in 1947 restored.

The pension orders issued on Nov 14 are nowhere near their demands. Instead of granting One Rank One Pension, the Centre has ordered One Rank Many Pensions. It has created many classes in one class which is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution as observed by the Supreme Court on Sept 9, 2008 in the case of Major Generals. The Centre has created a very difficult situation: a Havildar will get less pension than a Sepoy and a Lieutenant General will get less pension than a Colonel! The Centre should act fast and correct all the serious anomalies immediately.

Maj-Gen SATBIR SINGH (retd), Gurgaon


Though the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister have assured the Service Chiefs that the anomalies projected in the sixth pay panel report will be addressed to the satisfaction of the armed forces, little has been done. The Cabinet Secretary’s statement comes as a rude shock.

With the general elections a few months away and the ruling coalition busy in preparing for the same, the pay parity issue may be left to the next government to decide. If so, the morale of the armed forces will take a severe beating.

Wg-Cdr J.S. BHALLA (retd), Chandigarh

Fighting force

An IAF helicopter carrying electronic voting machines, election officials and BSF personnel was, during take off, fired at with automatic weapons from close range by the Naxalites in Chhattisgarh. This resulted in the killing of an IAF flight engineer Sergeant Mustafa Ali (Nov 15). Our hearts go out in profound sympathy to the martyred airman and his family.

Besides trying to disrupt elections in the state, the Naxalites also wanted to tarnish the image of a fighting force. The attack betrays negligence on the part of those deputed to look after the security of the helipad.

Obviously, the responsibility for providing the inner protective cover to the area should have been invested with the IAF authorities. We cannot let armed goons in the country make our military look like a sitting duck to be targeted at will with impunity. That is totally unacceptable.

Wg-Cdr S.C. KAPOOR (retd), Noida

Sideshow: Navy, Army publicity hunt

Express news service Posted online: Nov 29, 2008 at 0155 hrs

New Delhi : The Army and the Navy invited an ugly spot upon themselves, even as the National Security Guards (NSG) were carrying out operations on three different locations in Mumbai, in a hungry race for publicity that landed them a rap on the knuckles by the Defence Ministry. The credit-taking spree started on Thursday with senior officers of the Army and Navy giving impromptu statements. Consider this:

• The Navy was the first off the block with Western Command Chief Vice Admiral J S Bedi talking to a television channel about the role of the marine commandoes in the operations. The officer revealed that the Navy was searching for suspicious vessels, the input for which was provided by the Mumbai police, in nearby waters and had even boarded and searched a merchant vessel. In the most shocking goof up, the Vice Admiral even passed on a photograph of evidence seized by marine commandoes to the media. The photograph contained details of a credit card with a photograph and the weapons used by the terrorists.

• The Navy was followed by the Army on Wednesday with General Officer Commanding (Mumbai Area) Maj Gen R K Hooda saying that there was evidence that the terrorists were not from the country and were speaking Punjabi, indicating that they belonged to Pakistan. This, even before intelligence agencies firmly established the Pak link and acted on the information.

• The spree continued on Thursday after Lt Gen Nobel Thamburaj drove down from his office at the Southern Command HQ in Pune to Mumbai to address the media. The officer, who is set to take over as the next Vice Chief of Army staff, assured reporters that 'his boys' would clear the area of terrorists in a matter of hours. As it later turned out, operations were continuing even till midnight. He revealed that the NSG had suffered casualties in the operation.

• Even as the NSG commandoes were engaged in a fierce gun battle at all three locations, in an unprecedented move that left senior officers at Delhi in deep shock, the Navy held a press conference in Mumbai with its elite Marine Commandoes. The elite force, which is always kept under wraps by the Navy, narrated their entire operation, even revealing, analysts say, some of the tactics used by them. Sources said the Western Naval Commander, Vice Admiral J S Bedi authorised the conference without clearances from the Defence Ministry. This even as the main rescue operations were being carried out by NSG commandoes and a handful of Marine Commandoes (MARCOS) of the Navy -- 35 in all -- were part of the initial reaction team to the terror attack on Wednesday night. The MARCOS were moved out as soon as the NSG contingent arrived on the spot. The Navy came under flak after it was revealed that the terrorists used the sea route to infiltrate into the country, spurred the Defence Ministry into action and the armed forces were rapped on the knuckles for speaking out of turn.

As it turned out later in statements by the NSG DG, only the NSG commandoes were carrying out the main rescue and search operations and the Army's role was to maintain an outer squadron to ensure that no terrorists escape from the spot.

The ministry, which received calls from top Government officials after the statements by armed forces officers, asked the forces to keep a low profile on Thursday. Sources said top officers from both the Navy and Army HQ were told by the MoD to instruct their personnel in Mumbai to leave the talking to the Home Ministry and the National Security Guards (NSG) that actually carried out the operations.

This comes after the ministry has been put into a tight spot by the Navy that went on a publicity spree after sinking a pirate 'mother vessel' in the Gulf of Aden on November 18. The incident later turned into a major embarrassment after it was revealed that the vessel was a Thai fishing vessel and 14 fishermen were missing after the Indian warship sank it. However, given the high degree of publicity given to the incident by the Navy, the MoD had little choice but to back it even after it came to light that the vessel was let off hours earlier by a UK warship due to the presence of hostages on board.

Indian forces acted prematurely: Israeli experts

Press Trust of India

Friday, November 28, 2008 7:06 PM ()

Indian Security

forces were premature in storming the besieged prime premises taken over by the terrorists in Mumbai, Israeli security experts have opined.

Criticising the handling of the hostage crisis, the experts said "Indians should have sanitized the area and first collected intelligence about the terrorists before launching flushing out operations," a media report said.

"In hostage situations, the first thing the forces are supposed to do is assemble at the scene and begin collecting intelligence," a former official in Israel's famed anti-terror agency Shin Bet told The Jerusalem Post.

"In this case, it appears that the forces showed up at the scene and immediately began exchanging fire with the terrorists instead of first taking control of the area," he said.

Defence officials told the daily that Israel was not planning on sending commando units but had offered the Indians any assistance they required.

NSG commandos receive rousing welcome

PTI | November 29, 2008 | 00:13 IST

Commandos of the National Security Guards received a rousing welcome from the locals when they came out of the Nariman House after killing two dreaded terrorists, who had holed themselves in the building along with five hostages.

When the commandos came out after the successful mission, they were greeted with cheers, claps, pats on shoulders and patriotic slogans.

Bharat Mata ki Jai, Vande Mataram reverberated the narrow lanes of the area after the unit came out, after a grueling 12-hour-long final assault on the terrorists.

The crowd, which had gathered outside the building, came running towards the unit as they came out, drawing smiles on the battle-weary commandos' faces.

The roofs and balconies were full as men and women waited with bated breath for the soldiers to come out after finishing the ordeal.

The tiredness along with the sorrow of losing two of their men was palpable on their faces, but more than that it was the joy of achieving their target and accomplishing what was termed the most watched anti-terror action of the country.

Carrying their sophisticated weapons, some of them with their gear in hands tried to keep themselves calm, amidst the cheering crowd. Following the NSG were troupes of Army, Mumbai police and RAF, who were also welcomed by the crowd.

Some enthusiasts were seen approaching the force and getting a picture clicked with them. More than 500 people surrounded the bus which was carrying the team of commandos and raised anti-Pakistan slogans till it moved away.

Pak's U-turn; to send representative, not ISI chief

Press Trust of India

Saturday, November 29, 2008 3:29 AM (Islamabad)

Pakistan has done an about turn on sending the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief to India in connection with the probe into the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, saying a representative of the spy agency would be sent instead of him.

The decision was made at a late night meeting on Friday between President Asif Ali Zardari and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of the powerful army. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also joined the meeting, which was held at the presidency and continued past 1.30 am local time.

"A representative of the ISI will visit India, instead of its Director General Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, to help in investigating the Mumbai terrorism incident," a spokesman for the Prime Minister's House said in Islamabad.

Mumbai Attacks May Sharpen
Obama's Kashmir Focus

By Mayank Chhaya

The multiple terror attacks on Mumbai could push the incoming Barack Obama administration to sharpen its focus on the Kashmir issue.

The attacks are being viewed by some in the transition team here as President-elect Obama's first major national security challenge that could draw him into the Kashmir dispute sooner than he might like.

Although there is no direct link established between the terrorists operating in Kashmir with those who carried out the Mumbai attacks, a case may be made that eventually all jehadi groups are bound by a common Islamist philosophy.

To that extent the Deccan Mujahedeen, a likely offshoot of the more organized Indian Mujahedeen, may well share the broader vision of those operating in Kashmir.

Part of the reason why the Mumbai attacks could more sharply define the new Kashmir approach is because in the final analysis Kashmir (including the part under Pakistani control) is seen as a fount of the rising Islamist terror in India. Of course, factors such as the 2002 mass killings of Muslims in Gujarat do fuel some of the sense of extreme disenchantment within the Muslim community. However, the larger connection between the disparate groups will always remain a feeling of pan-Islamism.

Perhaps the clearest indication of a more pro-active Kashmir approach under Obama has come from Bruce Reidel, a former CIA officer and adviser to three US presidents on South Asia and the Middle East who has been appointed by the new president as his Pakistan adviser.

In an interview with the influential think tank Council on Foreign Relations Reidel was quoted as saying as recently as September: "There's another place where I feel creative American diplomacy could be helpful. We ought to try to encourage a long-term settlement between India and Pakistan of the Kashmir dispute, based again on the principle that the existing Line of Control ought to become an international border with some special status reserved for Kashmiris."

"We can't expect Pakistan to behave like a normal state, unless it has normal borders. And we can't expect Pakistan to behave the way we would like it to while it's obsessed and fixated on its neighbor and the problem in Kashmir. The problem in Kashmir has been in the doldrums for the past several years. It is now starting to boil really quickly, and when Kashmir boils, the result is Indian-Pakistani tensions that can produce war. We've seen that over and over again," he said.

With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointing at external links of the Mumbai attackers, it is not lost on experts in the US that he could be talking of groups based in Pakistan. If that is indeed the case the brazen Mumbai attacks could yet work up new tensions with Pakistan. Since Obama is committed to making Afghanistan and Pakistan his administration's foreign policy as well national security priority, it is only logical that he would have to pay particular attention to Kashmir.

While the chatter over Obama proposing to appoint a special envoy on Kashmir has died down in recent weeks, it is clear that the Mumbai attacks would bring back a whole lot of options on the table. At the very least they would force Obama and his South Asia advisers to reassess the situation on the ground.

Those who know the issue of terror in India understand that the mushrooming jehadi outfits use the justification of the community having been wronged in India as much as it having been wronged globally.

Such outfits no longer make any distinction between what they consider wrongs being done to Indian Muslims and those being done to Muslims worldwide. This fusion of global and domestic grievance among the jehadi groups, perceived or real, could make it hard for the Obama administration to tailor their Kashmir policy.

Nobody knows who Deccan Mujahedeen are or what their objectives are or whether they feel any affinity towards the Kashmiri separatists. But it may be safe to assume that all these groups morph into each other when it comes to what they have framed in their minds as Islam versus the world conflict. It is in this nebulousness that the Obama administration will have to pitch its Kashmir approach in the framework of its national security policy on South Asia, in the light of threat perceptions emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Commandoes in 'Top-Down' Operation
to Storm Terrorist-Held Building

Indian commandoes conducted a "top-down" operation Friday to slither down ropes from helicopters to the roof of a five-storey building in which terrorists have been holding an unspecified number of hostages for more than 36 hours, an official said.

"We term it a 'top-down' operation. It requires a great deal of skill on the part of the helicopter pilot as he has to keep the machine steady at one spot to enable the commandos slither down," Indian Air Force (IAF) spokesperson Wing Commander Mahesh Upasni said.

Travelling on two IAF Mi-8 helicopters, between eight to 10 National Security Guard (NSG) slid down to the roof of the Nariman House in south Mumbai, one of the three buildings along with the Taj hotel opposite Gateway of India and the Oberoi Trident the terrorists seized in coordinated attacks Wednesday.

"Due to the high voltage wires in the vicinity of the building, it becomes extremely difficult to maneuver and remain steady at one spot but the pilots managed this very well," Upasni explained.

The commandoes would now switch to the "observe and fire" mode, defence analyst Mahroof Raza explained.

Assisting them in this would be other commandoes station on the rooftops on buildings around Nariman House.

Simultaneously, some 100 commandoes positioned on the roads around the building would attempt to make their way up the building to the third floor where the hostages are believed to be held.

Raza, however, refused to speculate on how long the operation would last.

"It's a cat-and-mouse game and depends on how long it takes to wear down the terrorists," he explained.

"Simultaneously, there would be utmost care to prevent collateral damage (ensuring the hostages are not harmed)," Raza added.

Nariman House is a Jewish religious and residential complex.

At least 125 people, including 14 policemen, have been killed and 327 injured in the terror strike,

- Men in Black Who Rescued Mumbai's Hostages

By Ritu Sharma

New Delhi
They were the least known of the special forces commandos who were pressed into an anti-terrorist operation in Mumbai. But the 25-odd elite fighters of the Marcos - acronym for marine commandos - grabbed the national and international spotlight with their all-black overalls and faces masked by black cloth.

Dubbed the "bearded forces" because of the beards that the men sported and toting AK-47 assault rifles, Indian Navy's marine commandos follow in letter and spirit the adage of the counter-terrorism doctrine: “Fight a militant like a militant”.

Marcos, who are trained in executing covert operations, were called in along with the National Security Guard and army commandos take on armed militants who were holding scores of people hostage inside two luxury hotels since Wednesday night. The militants had struck in at least 10 places in Mumbai, killing 125 people and injuring 327 people.

Two Marcos received injuries during "Operation Tornado" launched to flush out terrorists at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel. Their operation continued till Friday.

“Trained sky divers and sea divers, the Marcos could sabotage enemy vessels and harbor installations. They can operate in beaches, coastal, jungles and ravines areas. Being divers, they can reach hostile shores swimming underwater,” a senior navy official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Officially known as the Indian Marine Special Force, the unit was raised in 1987 out of the naval divers to lead amphibious operations. The personnel volunteering for the force have to undergo a rigorous two-year training, by the end of which only 10-25 percent of the enrolled commandos remain.

Marcos have been active in Jammu and Kashmir as part of the army's counter-terrorist efforts. Their main task is to control the infiltration of terrorists from across the border into Jammu and Kashmir through the Jhelum river and Wullar, a 65 square kilometer freshwater lake.

Some Marcos personnel are also attached with the army special forces units conducting counter-terrorism operations in the area.

“They operate similar to the Israeli Mistaravim units sporting beards and wearing the 'pheren' (Kashmiri suit), thus making them indistinguishable from the locals,” the official added.

Marcos have gained a fearsome reputation among terrorists who refer to them as the 'Dadiwali Fauj' (Bearded Army) since they are the only non-Sikh personnel allowed to grow beards, 'Jal Murgi' (Water Hens) for the speed in which they carry out assault from the water and 'Magarmachh' (Crocodiles) for their amphibious capability.

Recently, the elite force earned accolades for the Indian Navy after they repulsed pirates attacks off the Somali coast on an Indian and a Saudi merchant vessel Nov 11.

In April 1986, the Indian Navy mooted a plan for a special force, which would be able to conduct reconnaissance, raids and even counter-terrorist operations in a maritime environment. Three naval officers were sent for training with the US Navy SEALS and further training was conducted with British Special Forces. These three naval officers formed the nucleus of the Indian Marine Special Force (IMSF) that was formally raised in February 1987.

The strength of the unit is a closely guarded secret. However, sources say the number could be close to 2,000 personnel. Currently, there are three main groups attached to the three naval commands - Mumbai (West), Cochin (South) and Vizag (East).

The unit's quick rise has changed its role - it was intended to be dedicated to special maritime operations, but a considerable part of Marcos is doubling up as marine infantry with the usual flexibility of commando forces.

India's Political Leadership to Blame: WSJ

New York
India's ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has done little to launch an effective fight against terrorism and may "pay a price for its incompetence" in the elections next year, the Wall Street Journal said in its lead editorial Friday.

"A lack of political leadership is to blame," The Wall Street Journal said as India's financial capital continued to battle terrorists who had struck in 10 places in the city Wednesday.

The Mumbai terror attacks, in which at least 125 people have been killed, have been covered extensively in both the print and online edition of this New York-based daily financial newspaper.

"It (the ruling party) may pay a price for its incompetence at the national polls next year," the newspaper said.

"Yesterday Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised that 'every perpetrator would pay the price'. Yet his Congress Party has done little more than bicker with its coalition allies over the past five years on how best to fight terrorism," the journal said.

Observing that the attacks are a reminder that India is at the top of the terror target list, the newspaper said this is because India is an easy target.

Not only are its intelligence units understaffed and lack resources, coordination among State police forces is also poor. "The country's anti-terror legal architecture is also inadequate; there is no preventive detention law, and prosecutions can take years," it said.

"Wednesday's attacks should arouse Indians to better confront the terror threat, while reminding all democracies how dangerous that threat still is," it said.

In another opinion piece published by The Journal, author Sadanand Dhume blamed the Congress for scrapping the anti-terror law POTA. "On taking office in 2004, one of the first acts of the ruling Congress Party was to scrap a federal antiterrorism law that strengthened witness protection and enhanced police powers," he wrote.

"The Congress Party has stalled similar state-level legislation in Gujarat, which is ruled by the opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. And it was a Congress government that kowtowed to fundamentalist pressure and made India the first country to ban Mumbai-born Salman Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses' in 1988," he said.

Dhume, a Washington-based writer and author of "My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with an Indonesian Islamist", said the Indian approach to terrorism has been consistently haphazard and weak-kneed.

Israeli Daily Critical of India's 'Slow' Response
to Terror Strike

New Delhi
As India turned down Israel's offer to send its crack commandos to Mumbai to rescue Israeli hostages held in a Jewish centre, an influential newspaper in Tel Aviv has criticized "slow, confused and inefficient" response of Indian authorities to the terror attacks in Mumbai.

"In the first several hours after the Mumbai incidents began, the response of the Indian authorities was slow, confused and inefficient," said an article in Haaretz, entitled "Is Al Qaeda behind the Mumbai terror attacks?"

"The first forces sent to the scene were inexperienced local police officers, who suffered many casualties as a result," said the article published in Friday's edition of the daily.

"It took some time before military and security authorities realized the scope of the attack and deployed skilled security forced, including army and navy commando units," the article said.

The editorial pages of Haaretz, published in both Hebrew and English, are considered influential among government leaders, intellectuals, academics, and professionals.

The bodies of five Jews were found inside the Jewish centre - Nariman House - a home to Chabad Lubavich sect, in which an Israeli rabbi and his family were trapped.

"India said a polite no to an offer by Israel for dispatching counter terror forces," Haaretz pointed out.

"It appears the Indian government is not interested in high profile security assistance from Israel. Throughout the day, the Homefront Command prepared to send an aid delegation to India but efforts were halted when it became clear that Delhi was not enthusiastic about the prospect," the daily said.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni Thursday offered Israel's assistance to India in dealing with terror attacks and its aftermath. Livni also called her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee and underlined her country's solidarity in the fight against terrorism.

Tel Aviv is not happy with New Delhi's rejection of its offer to send its elite commando force to rescue hostages trapped in Mumbai's luxury hotels and in Nariman House, reliable sources said.

The Israeli defence minister also expressed concerns over the fate of Israelis caught up in the attacks. He also thanked the Indian government for its efforts to trace the missing Israeli nationals visiting Mumbai.

Japan to withdraw air defense force from Iraq

Special report: Tension escalates in Iraq

TOKYO, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada announced on Friday the withdrawal of the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) in Iraq by the end of the year, marking a full end to the ASDF's mission in Iraq that began almost five years ago.

The decision was made by Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and Cabinet ministers concerned at a meeting of the national security council in the morning.

The government cited improvements in the political and security situation in Iraq, as well as the expiration at the end of the year of a U.N. resolution authorizing the current deployment of multinational forces in the country as reasons for withdrawal.

The ASDF continued its airlift mission in Iraq, even after Ground Self-Defense Force troops were withdrawn from the country in 2006.

The ASDF began airlifting activities in Iraq in March 2004. Deploying around 200 personnel, the ASDF has operated mainly from an airbase in Kuwait, using three C-130 transport planes.

The ASDF is currently airlifting troops and materials for the U.S.-led multinational forces as well as for the United Nations to three airports in Iraq, including the country's capital, Baghdad.

As of Nov. 26, the ASDF had transported around 671 tons of materials in 810 separate airlifts.

Japan announced in mid-September that it would begin mulling complete withdrawal by the end of the year.

The ASDF will dispatch about 70 personnel to form a 130-personwithdrawal work unit in Kuwait. The airlift mission itself is expected to end in mid-December, Kyodo said.

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