|Source :NewsBharati Date :06-Dec-2018|
· IndianNavy forms the outermost layer where IN ships and aircraft patrol the waters well beyond the Indian mainland/islands. The ICG forms the second layer with ships patrolling the EEZ and Territorial waters.
· The third layer comprises marine police, Customs and Port Authorities (CISF) patrolling close to the coast in shallow waters where IN/ICG ships cannot operate due to draught constraints.
· Once the ‘threat’ reaches the mainland, it is under the State Civil Police and the handing over of the incident to NSG is decided by the Govt. If the issue escalates beyond the capability of State Police, intervention by NSG/Indian Army is sought by Government.
Employment of NSG Coastal Security: Lessons from 26/11
To this day, perceptions of 26/11 are dominated by memories of bureaucratic /police confusion, with a degree of personal incompetence attributed to national and state-level politicians.
(a)The performance of NSG in killing eight out of 10 terrorists was outstanding
The NSG continued to do excellent work in breaking up terrorist networks in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere, but its success was crucially dependent on the quality of intelligence provided by the central agencies, as well as the ingenuity of its own personnel in improvising new tactics. In terms of systemic support from the policy establishment, the NSG got little by way of new authority and funding, partly due to economizing trends in government.
(b)26/11 as a Commando Operation
The terrorist attacks were simple to execute, because killing unarmed civilians is actually a simple affair. The only real complication was in transporting the attackers on-site, and once the LeT developed a sea-borne attack capability, that complication was resolved. Secrecy was preserved by tight personnel vetting – LeT compartmentalized the attack preparations, such that barring a few key personnel, nobody had access to the entire operational plan. Rehearsals were carried out based on topographical intelligence collected by penetration agents. Speed was attained by ad hoc vehicular movement, in a context where first responders struggled to reach the affected areas. Finally, purpose was maintained by real-time encouragement from LeT handlers who were safely ensconced in Pakistan.
Operation Black Tornado’- The 26/11 Operations
The NSG was inducted into Mumbai at 0300 h on 27 November 2008 after covering a distance of 1163 Km from New Delhi by air.
Initially two targets were identified—The Taj Palace hotel and the Oberoi- Trident in South Mumbai. Later, a terrorist situation was confirmed at a third location—the Nariman house. Hence, the task force was divided into three sub-task forces, one each for the Taj, Oberoi-Trident and the Nariman house.
The Task Force comprised 195 army personnel drawn from the 51 and 52 Special Action Groups (SAG).
The operational strategy was to neutralize the terrorists through ‘shock’ action using varied methods of insertions and tactical manoeuvring:-
· Using small ‘HIT’ teams of 5 personnel each.
· Inter and Intra coordination and communication.
· Top-down innovative tactics.
· Use overwhelming small arms fire to pin down the terrorists.
· Render safe procedure (RSP) to sanitize and secure the buildings.
Conduct of Operations by NSG
Inputs had suggested that two terrorists were present inside the Taj. Contact was established at the first floor during floor clearance. Fire was coming from two terrorists from the left corner of the corridor.
One SAG commando got injured in the middle of the staircase leading to the first floor. It was then that Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan,7 BIHAR pulled him down to the basement and asked his squad to stay there and charged the staircase himself, firing at the terrorists. At this moment, two more terrorists unexpectedly fired from the right corner of the first floor corridor, injuring Maj. Unnikrishnan. He later succumbed to his injuries.
In all, eight terrorists were killed during the operation by the NSG and a total of 610 hostages/guests rescued from all the three locations.
The NSG suffered two fatal and 18 non-fatal casualties.
There were several failures on 26/11.
· Failure on the part of security forces/local police is the most obvious. Once the gravity of the situation set in, top police officials showed a lack of nerve, abdicating responsibility and waiting for the NSG to arrive from Delhi. The Navy’s marine commandos were not deployed until four hours after the attack began. Failure on the part of emergency services meant that casualty evacuation was slow, with lives being lost from arson in the Taj Palace Hotel.
· It led state and national politicians to issue public statements without any regard for operational security. A central minister generously revealed the timeframe , according to which the NSG would reach Mumbai and begin operations – information which LeT handlers in Pakistan put to immediate use. Another politician revealed his hiding place in the Taj Palace Hotel (and that of 200 other guests) in a cell phone interview.
LeT fidayeen, moved swiftly in buddy pairs and carrying their combat loads on a man-pack basis. On average, each was kitted out with an assault rifle, roughly 300 rounds of ammunition, a sidearm, several grenades, communications gear, emergency rations and night vision goggles. Their main asset was initially the ability to open fire whilst in disguise, and thereafter to remain mobile. A static defence deprives them of the initiative and leads to a drop in their lethality, even if it increases the duration of an engagement.
It is ,therefore, vital that they should have been aggressively engaged by first responders even before NSG units arrived, with view towards restricting their freedom of movement.
Regular policemen and all security forces personnel need to have basic proficiency in firearms usage and maintenance, as their initial reaction is crucial in deciding the outcome of a fidayeen attack.
NSG units can provide a mechanism for such training, through running marksmanship schools in high-risk cities. Rather than the specialized skills required for hostage rescue, first responders ‘only’ need to know is how to shoot moving targets whilst themselves being fired upon.It is necessary to have a minimum standard which armed securitymen in mega-cities cannot be permitted to fall below. For purposes of economy, priority for training should be given to those police stations that are located nearest to sites that have already been identified as likely targets.
The most important challenge facing a decision-maker during a crisis, is to recognize what kind of a crisis it is. Any other attack would probably once again take the nature of a co-ordinated fidayeen strike, where the goal is not to take hostages, but simply to inflict a high civilian death toll. There are three questions which need to be answered in this situation, for NSG to form a tactical appreciation: how many sites have been attacked, are the attackers in contact with their Pakistani handlers, and are they mobile or static? The answers to these questions will not be held by any one agency; they need to be fused together in a crisis intelligence cell. It would perhaps be worth creating such a cell in the IB, with a hotline to local police officials, NSG headquarters and the relevant NSG regional hub. The IB is a logical choice for controlling such a cell, since it will be able to obtain information from local police about the unfolding ground-level situation while also exploiting national signal intelligence assets to ascertain the terrorists’ tactical objectives, in case these are dictated from Pakistan. Information needs to flow both upwards and downwards simultaneously, but with priority being given to the needs of immediate users.
• Need for a better synergy between the centre and the states.
• Launch multi-faceted and integrated operations.
• State governments should be made more accountable, since law and order is a state subject.
• Enhance professionalism of state forces.
• There should be a clear channel of Operational command.
• Harmonise all instruments of National Power- Start from a position of strength- military operations, but compliment it with political solutions.
Lest We Forget
Police ASI Tukaram Ombale, Ashok Chakra, (Posthumous)
Ombale joined the police as a constable in 1991 after retiring from the Indian Army's Signal Corps as a Naik. He was an ASI with the Mumbai Police. His team managed to kill one terrorist and arrest the only terrorist taken alive — Ajmal Kasab. Unarmed, Ombale held on to the rifle of the injured Kasab, enabling others to apprehend him. In the process, Kasab fired several shots, martyring Ombale.
We must pay tribute to all police men and NSG Commandos were responsible for killing the terrorists.
Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Ashok Chakra, 7 BIHAR, 51 SAG (Posthumous);
Hav. Gajender Singh, Ashok Chakra, 10 PARA (SF), 51 SAG (Posthumous);
The 51 and 52 Special Action Groups of the NSG were conferred with 1 Kirti Chakra, 1 Shaurya Chakra, 6 Sena Medals (Gallantry), 1 Sena Medal (Distinguished) and 1 COAS Commendation Card for OP Black Tornado.