Operation Black Tornado

By: Navyanjali Bajaj

“I woke up at 8 that day, felt a little sick, but carried on with my tasks. Afterall, the duties at the hotel do not stop for sickness. As usual, I went to the hotel, greeted the guests and carried on with my work, But, only to witness an attack so horrific, the mind still does not forget the sight.”

“My husband and children had planned to explore the city that day. We were staying at Hotel Taj for that trip. All of us were ready and got out of our room. The sudden explosive sound of gunshots made both my children cry. The havoc spread in the corridors was enough to make our heart skip a beat and never let our minds forget the terror. I still think of that moment and how grateful I am of god to get us out alive.”


It could have been another ordinary day for Mumbai, but indeed, it was not. 26th of November was a gateway for fear to settle in the hearts of everyone living in the city, after one of the deadliest attacks took place.  Survivors still fear that day. The tales of heroism of officers and the staff are never ending. ‘Make India bleed with a thousand cuts’ was the main aim of the four day mayhem caused by Lashkar-e-Taiba, an extremist Islamist terrorist organization based in Pakistan. 165 killed, hundreds injured and left without a single-family member, for the mere aim of political domination. Five major targeted sites were Hotel Taj, Trident Oberoi Hotel, Nariman House, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station and Cama Hospital.


“10 young men, Ismail Khan, Ajmal Amir Kasab, Hafiz Arshad, Naser, Shoaib, Javed, Abdul Rehman Chotta, Fahadullah, Babar Imran and Nasir were the ones executing the operation.  They were highly trained and not just picked up. They knew what they were doing” JK Dutt, former director general of the National Security Guard and chief of the elite commando force which preceded the operations on the ground of  Mumbai at 26/11, said in an interview with The Print. The terrorist attack mostly used 9mm Chinese bullets, AK-47 and hand grenades for the mass shootings. The onslaught began at 2100 hours on 26 November and continued until 8AM on the 29th.


It is clear, when an operation with such precision is planned, political involvement is negligible. The various aspects of this attack, even after 12 years, are hard to deal with. The existence of conspiracy theories by the authorities of various countries makes it hard to find the actual truth. However, in this article, we will try to tackle the dimensions, which most influence the 26/11 event majorly.  Popularly called as the “Indian 9/11”, the deadly attack on industrial capital of India can be segregated into 3 major themes/ areas of effect:

    1. Key players

    2. Specific targeting

    3. Policy responses

Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Shaikh, who were serving their sentence for various other terrorist involvements were said to be a part of this operation too, NDTV reported. On the surface, the entire event has been said to be schemed by  Lashkar-e-Taiba. The BJP leaders blaming the Congress for the attacks after the book ‘Let me say it now’ by Mumbai Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria which was published, presented another theory. They stated “If Ajmal Amir Kasab had succeeded, he would have later been murdered as a Bengaluru local Samir Dinesh Chaudhari, with a “red thread tied around his wrist” posing as HINDU terrorists who attacked Mumbai.”  Nevertheless, we are still unaware, if BJP used ‘saffron terror’ as a term to victimize itself and target the citywide assault on the opposition or it is the truth. According to the known facts Sajjid Mir aka Majid has also been named as one of the masterminds of the 26/11 attack. He has a reward of US $5million on his head and is known to be living under level 7 protection of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Sitting on the top stack is David Coleman Headley, (original name: Daood Gilani), who has been named in the NIA charge sheet for the attack. During a trial in US court, Headley confessed of being a part of ISI and LeT and being funded by the organization to carry out the destruction. HuJI (Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami ) commander Illyas Kashmiri and Tahawwur Hussain Rana are also named as the key conspirators. Their role in the attacks could be proved after Headley gave details of his Mumbai visits, financed by Major Iqbal. It is important to know Sajjid Mir was the key handler of David Headley.

 A completely new angle to the event is the connection of ISI to Taliban and Al-Qaeda. This brings us to the second theme of our article “specific shooting”.  LeT leader Hafiz Saeed is known to have close relations with Osama bin Laden. If we look over the choice at the choice of targets, the main aim of the attack turns out to be Americans and Israelis. One of the key targets of the attack was Nariman House- a Jewish cultural and religious center. As stated in the 103 documents of Bin Laden, released by the US, he has called the Mumbai attack as a “blessed operation,” and “heroic Fidai operations in Bombay — in which several western targets were struck and many Americans and other Westerners were killed.” The hinting involvement of Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda reminds us that the attacks were not just “a war against India” or “a show of political dominance” but also a hate crime towards those belonging to different nationalities. Israel, until today, has continuously urged the Pakistani Government to bring justice and punish those who planned the heinous terror attacks.

The third theme of the event and the most important one is the aftermath of the attack. The question that rises over our head, is ,that is India ready to face another deadly attack? Are we militarized enough to combat against these citywide assaults?  India’s lack of institutional capacity to manage and further prevent similar problems in the future is what poses the greater threat. The establishment of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and the National Intelligence Grid remain futile if there is no betterment in the internal security apparatus of the country. Moreover, the act of using such heinous crimes for campaigning and politicization is what makes India weaker on the aftermath strategies. While keeping in mind the heroism shown by our dedicated officers and commandos, we also talk about the delay in the immediate responses during 26/11 which could have limited the number of casualties. Some other responses by the Government include setting up of a National Investigation Agency, similar to the FBI and a new anti-terror bill. The NSG commandos have also undergone a new module of training for anti-siege operations to increase their endurance for prolonged fights.


The “Operation Black Tornado” as it was called, was the retaliation of the Indian Govt to these 10 terrorists. It included not just those who were trained to fight, but also those, who showed bravery and saved even a single life. Every employee, guest, officer, media reporter who was killed during those four days of mayhem are still remembered in prayers. “We give them 30 minutes to prepare. Once the alert has been sounded, they come, collect their weapons and other equipment, and proceed to the vehicles. It takes about 30 minutes for that” Mr. Dutt recalled. Every person who was a citizen of Mumbai that day was a part of the operation too. We remember Maj Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Hav Gajender Singh who lost their lives fighting for the operation. The determination and courage shown by the NSG officers and Commandos for the protection and security of the hostages fills our heart with pride and gratification. The fact that within 24 hours of the NSG response, they had killed 2 terrorists and arrested Ajmal Amir Kasab reminds us *the determination with which our officers fulfilled their duties.