Officials: India mishandled hostage situation

Israeli officials criticize poor intel gathering; aid offered, but commando units not sent to Mumbai.

mumbai take cover 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
mumbai take cover 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israeli defense officials have criticized the way Indian security forces initially handled the hostage situation in Mumbai, claiming on Thursday that the forces prematurely stormed the besieged areas. At least three buildings in the Indian port city were taken over by terrorists - the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Hotel and the nearby Chabad House. The Israeli officials said that Indian counter-terrorist forces were well trained but failed to gather sufficient intelligence before engaging the terrorists. "In hostage situations, the first thing the forces are supposed to do is assemble at the scene and begin collecting intelligence," said a former official in the Shin Bet's security unit. "In this case, it appears that the forces showed up at the scene and immediately began exchanging fire with the terrorists instead of first taking control of the area." Defense officials said that Israel was not planning on sending commando units but had offered the Indians any assistance they required. Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke with Indian National Security adviser Mayankote Kelath Narayanan, who briefed him on recent developments. Barak expressed concern over the fate of the Israelis caught up in the attacks and thanked the Indian government for its efforts. He also stressed that the attacks were part of the wave of global terror with which Israel was all-too familiar, and expressed support for the Indian people. Barak offered Israel's help in an advisory capacity and in any other way it could be of assistance, be it humanitarian or professional. The two countries have close defense ties. India is the Israeli defense establishment's top customer in annual defense exports and has bought more than $5 billion worth of Israeli equipment since 2002. Two weeks ago, a senior Indian defense delegation, led by Defense Secretary Vijay Singh, visited Israel to discuss the purchase of AWACS planes and missiles from Israel Aerospace Industries. Israel is also training Indian military units. In September, Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi, OC Ground Forces Command, paid an unscheduled visit to the disputed state of Kashmir to get a close look at the challenges India faced in its fight against Islamic insurgents. Mizrahi was in India for three days of meetings with the country's military brass and to discuss a training plan the IDF is currently drafting. Under the proposed agreement, the IDF will send highly-trained commandos to provide instruction in counter-terror, urban warfare and anti-guerrilla tactics.