NEW DELHI: In one of the most “devastating near-misses” ever, it has come to light that Indian, American and British spy agencies had all received a lot of chatter about a possible attack on Mumbai before 26/11, but failed to connect the dots and prevent the death of 166 people.
An investigative report by The New York Times, ProPublica and PBS ‘Frontline’ found that there were several clues in the months leading to the November 2008 attack, but they were not pieced together. The report says that a few ISI officers colluded with terror outfit Laskhar-e-Toiba (LeT) to carry out the “commando style attack”.
Spy agencies of the US, UK and India had managed to zero in on the cyber footprint of Zarrar Shah, the 30-year-old technology chief of LeT as he made preparations for the 26/11 attack. He had searched the Internet extensively about previous terror strikes in India, weather forecasts in the Arabian Sea, ‘Taj hotel’, and visited mapsofindia.com to pore over sites in and around Mumbai.
By November 24, Shah moved to the Karachi suburbs, where he set up a ‘control room’ with the help of Indian militant Abu Jundal, who “tested Voice over IP phone software on four laptops spread out on four small tables facing a pair of televisions as the plotters waited for the killings to begin”.
It was from this control room that minute-by-minute updates were relayed to the attackers.
Besides letting Shah’s work go unnoticed, the Americans also let crucial clues about David Coleman Headley fall through, especially by not pursuing reports from his estranged Moroccan wife, who warned the US embassy in Islamabad three times saying Headley was operating as a terrorist in Mumbai.
But the report quoted the spokesperson of the US director of national intelligence as saying that the “US intelligence community, on multiple occasions between June and November 2008, warned the Indian government about Lashkar threats in Mumbai.”