Monday, December 01, 2008

Mumbai attacks - maybe not so expert

As expected, Schneier's analysis of the Mumbai attacks, is much better than anything from the mainstream media, including the WSJ, NYT or The Economist.

Blogs rule. Again.

Schneier makes several important points (read the post), but this one I'll call out (note the current count of attackers is 10) ...
... The attacks were surprisingly ineffective. I can't find exact numbers, but it seems there were about 18 terrorists. The latest toll is 195 dead, 235 wounded. That's 11 dead, 13 wounded, per terrorist. As horrible as the reality is, that's much less than you might have thought if you imagined the movie in your head...
Ineffective in quotes, perhaps. Mumbai is both unfathomably large and quite small. A family I personally know has lost several friends and colleagues.

The key point, which is not reassuring, is these young men accomplished the kind of devastation one might expect from healthy, ruthless, men with some military training and no particular desire to live. I suspect a suicidal team of SAS soldiers would have done far worse.

The thesis that these were not spy movie super-warriors is reinforced by the cooperation of the single barely adult captive (it pays to take these people alive):
Mumbai terror attacks: Rice calls for 'total transparency' from Pakistan | World news |

... Azam Amir Kasav, a 21-year-old Pakistani national who speaks fluent English, told interrogators his team took orders from 'their command in Pakistan', the investigators, speaking anonymously, told Reuters. The training was organised by the Lashkar-e-Taiba group and involved former members of the Pakistani army, they added...
If the US, EU and India can use this attack to force Pakistan to move against its internal terror network then this nightmare might be used to reduce future harm.

If Pakistan cannot act, then we will all have a better idea of what we're up against.

Update: Two incidents in Montreal, Canada, the 1989 Ecole polytechnique shootings (14 dead, 14 wounded) and the 2006 Dawson college shooting (19 wounded, 1 dead) are illustrative. In both cases the killers were mentally ill, had no particular military expertise, and used non-military weapons. Both killers committed suicide fairly early in their assault.

The city is not large or hard to navigate, and even in 1989 the police were experienced and well trained. Even so, the toll was considerable.

The fact that 18 survived the Dawson shooting, even two who had terrible injuries, is astounding and is credited to luck (of a dubious sort - it would be better luck not to be shot), superb emergency responses, the youthful vigor of the victims, the courage of bystanders, police strategies developed after the 1989 shootings, and a very well placed shot by one officer.

So there are things that can be done, but there are some vulnerabilities every modern city shares - from Mumbai to Montreal.

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