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Terrorist Attacks in Mumbai, India, and Implications for U.S. Interests

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On the evening of November 26, 2008, a number of well-trained militants came ashore from the Arabian Sea on small boats and attacked numerous high-profile targets in Mumbai, India, with automatic weapons and explosives. By the time the episode ended some 62 hours later, about 165 people, along with nine terrorists, had been killed and hundreds more injured. Among the multiple sites attacked in the peninsular city known as Indias business and entertainment capital were two luxury hotels -- the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi-Trident -- along with the main railway terminal, a Jewish cultural center, a cafe frequented by foreigners, a cinema house, and two hospitals. Six American citizens were among the 26 foreigners reported dead. Indian officials have concluded that the attackers numbered only 10, one of whom was captured. The investigation into the attacks is still in preliminary stages, but press reporting and statements from U.S. and Indian authorities strongly suggest that the attackers came to India from neighboring Pakistan and that the perpetrators likely were members and acting under the orchestration of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba LeT terrorist group. The LeT is believed to have past links with Pakistans military and intelligence services. By some accounts, these links are ongoing, leading to suspicions, but no known evidence, of involvement in the attack by Pakistani state elements. The Islamabad government has strongly condemned the Mumbai terrorism and offered New Delhi its full cooperation with the ongoing investigation, but mutual acrimony clouds such an effort, and the attacks have brought into question the viability of a nearly 5-year-old bilateral peace process between India and Pakistan. The Mumbai attacks have brought even more intense international attention to the increasingly deadly and destabilizing incidence of Islamist extremism in South Asia, and they may affect the course of U.S. policy toward Pakistan, especially.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Unconventional Warfare

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