On November 21, 2008, ten terrorists left territory friendly to their cause and started out to strike their target. Each of the 10 men is given one AK-47 style rifles, 6 to 7 magazines of 30 rounds each plus 400 rounds not loaded in magazines, 8 hand grenades, a pistol, prepaid credit cards and a supply of dried fruit. Two days later, they hijacked a trawler on the open ocean and transferred to that boat. Once they came to within four miles of their target, they killed the captain and crew of the trawler and proceeded to shore in three small boats at dusk. Over the next four days, they conducted 11 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India's largest city.
At no point during the attack did the terrorists attempt to overcome armed guards or police. The terrorists attacked largely unguarded 'soft' targets, which had been scouted in advance. These included two large hotels, a hospital, and a railway station. Working in small 2-5 man teams they killed 164 people and wounded at least 308 before being taken down themselves. The resulting panic sent tremors throughout the country. The New York Times, in July 2009, described the event as "what may be the most well-documented terrorist attack anywhere.
Can it happen here?
For an investment of three small boats, ten rifles, ten pistols, a half dozen cases of ammunition, 80 hand grenades, and a some spending money, the terrorist organization behind the attacks reaped a terrible blood soaked return. All told, the operation could be replicated for under $75,000 and ten volunteers. When you take into account that the entire 9/11 operation is estimated from start to finish, costing al Qaeda only $500,000, you can see that the figure could be covered.
India has one of the largest and most modern coast guard and navies in the world. In size, they rank third or fourth depending on how you calculate them. They also have one of the largest and most dedicated counter-terrorism forces ever fielded, coupled with extensive domestic and overseas intelligence gathering agencies. Yet they were not able to prevent the attack or respond to it until it was underway. Even though we have a large and well trained Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, nothing is terrorist proof.
What to do if it happens here
Since 2008, many large and medium sized police departments have studied the "Mumbai Model." This has led to more tactical training, active shooter courses, and issuing of patrol rifles (read= 5.56mm carbines) to officers. The thin blue line is being amped up for these threats. As a citizen, your best bet in a situation where multiple attackers are present with long-arms in an active shooter scenario is to take cover and shelter in place. Provide a description and location of the attackers from cover. One of the worst things to do is to flee on foot if you are being advised to shelter in place, this leads to more chaos for first responders.
If you are a CCW holder, carry your firearm with you at all times whenever legally possible. It is not advisable to get involved in a firefight with a group of terrorists equipped with longarms. Odds are, this will shorten your life expectancy greatly and further confuse the situation for responding LEOs. However, if and only if, there is no cover or concealment, nowhere to displace to, nowhere to evaporate into, and you are confronted with a threat-- then make the choice that is best for you.
- Photograph of Ajmal Kasab, one of the ten terrorists involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks at the Victoria Terminus station. (Wikipedia)
This is where choices made today about carrying a second magazine, spending time at the range practicing, or choosing a caliber can come into play. Now of course let us be sensible about this and refrain from bringing your favorite 556/223 to the mall food court strapped across your shoulder with 12 spare PMAGS while muttering something about Mumbai...that is just bad for everyone. Make sensible and most importantly, defensible choices.
I hope that this will never happen.
I hope that the United States has seen the last of international or domestic terrorism. I hope so, but I think not.