Using novel, upgraded tactics, Al Qaeda and fellow Islamist terror groups are outperforming anti-terror agencies in their attacks on targeted countries. International counter-terror agencies are worried enough to start retooling their counter-measures after viewing terrorist performances in Mumbai on Nov. 2008, killing 172 people, Lahore on March 3, causing 8 fatalities, and the Jordan Valley, shooting dead 2 Israeli policemen.
India, for instance, is overhauling its special forces from top to bottom and preparing to launch the world’s first anti-terror satellite RISAT 2 on short-order delivery from Israel.
British intelligence and anti-terror services have embarked on a crash program to secure the G-20 summit opening in London on April 2, fearing the posh hotels hosting the leaders and their retinues are designated for a Mumbai-style massacre.
Western terror experts have detected common traits in the recent spate of attacks:
1. Preparation and execution straddle several countries as attested to by the highly-polished, coordinated attacks in separate places – India, Pakistan, Jordan and Israel.
2. Select jihadis are extensively trained to operate in large teams, using elite tactics and skills superior to existing combat techniques practiced by the special operations units of regular armies and security service SWAT teams in the targeted countries.
3. They may undergo training for as long as six months, a testament to the kind of long-term operational planning which is beyond the capabilities of most local law and order services – even in high-profile centers like Mumbai, London, Tel Aviv or Paris.
4. Al Qaeda and its ilk are now going in for large-scale attacks carried out by small armies of terrorists trained to operate in fully compartmentalized conditions.
The ten gunmen who carried out the Mumbai atrocity had support teams of hundreds deployed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir and other parts of India.
The Lahore attack was perpetrated by 14 men.
Both teams operated like well-oiled machines on terrain which they had studied thoroughly.
5. The new terrorists are trained to carry large quantities of ammo, transportable missiles, grenades, rockets and explosives.
This enables them
– to maximize the lethality of their mission;
– to commandeer targeted sites at top speed. In Mumbai, they swiftly seized three large hotels, a main train terminus and the Habad Center;
– to outgun the local security forces in the first moments of the attack. In Mumbai, the local forces took two days to rally and muster enough firepower to suppress the attack. In Lahore, the terrorists effectively silenced Pakistani security personnel for long enough for them all to escape without a scratch.
6. Islamist terrorists have learned to operate long distance, preparing assault teams in one country to hit another and moving them in fast, even taking over ships, planes, vehicles or trains.
As much effort and resources are invested in transport as in other facets of an operation. The Mumbai assailants were smuggled in from Pakistan; for Lahore, they came from the Pakistan-Afghan border region; for the Jordan Valley, they stole in from the Hashemite Kingdom.
In that last attack, it is now estimated that 5 or 6 gunmen, members of al Qaeda, took part.
The highly-enhanced tactics now employed by Islamist terrorist organizations are being met with improved counter-measures by potentially vulnerable countries.
The Israeli spy satellite acquired by India in an extra-fast transaction is capable of day-and-night viewing and all-weather imaging, which enables Indian forces to keep track of terrorist movements through the low-cloud cover prevailing in the monsoon season. India is the first country in the world to acquire a surveillance satellite tailored specifically to counter terror.
The British authorities are in high gear for securing the G-20 summit to be kicked off on April 1 by the first face-to-face encounter between US president Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.
They are also preparing for the 2012 London Olympics.
The London Daily Telegraph reports that British security services officials are judging the threat against the UK to be at the “severe end of severe.” Previously focused on preventing bombings, they are most concerned since the Mumbai massacre about attacks using automatic weapons on major hotels and public buildings.
They are considering issuing guidance to the managements of places where people gather in large numbers and are watching for small arms being smuggled in to the UK through ports or remote airfields.
Cagey about their preventive tactics, British officials are working to the slogan of the four “Ps – Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare.”