AL QAEDA’S 2008 ELECTION PLOT
By: David Malone
The Mumbai-massacre plot was a 9/11 targeting Americans abroad.
The Al Qaeda high command supervised the terrorist conspiracy.
7:30 PM on September 30th, 2008 was the time original launch time for the 3-day attack.
Al Qaeda is notorious for its tactic of rigging elections with “October Surprises”.
THE MUMBAI MASSACRE PLOT WAS AN AL QAEDA SCHEME TO SABOTAGE PRESIDENT OBAMA'S ELECTION.
Summary: The Mumbai massacre was an Al Qaeda operation originally designed to target Americans with the largest terrorist attack in world history during the influential closing weeks of the 2008 presidential campaign. Threatening a 9/11 on Americans overseas that aimed to topple two towers inside India’s “New York City”, this plot represented the latest incarnation of Osama bin Laden’s ambition to rig U.S. national elections in favor of war hawks by manipulating the final deliberations of voters. A psychological-warfare tactic successfully employed by the 9/11 mastermind in 2000 and 2004, election-eve terrorism can hijack American democracy and redirect U.S. foreign policy to the nation’s detriment. Amidst the ideological and financial fallout from George Bush’s response to the 9/11 attack, the Mumbai plot serves as yet another exhibition of the most potentially devastating weapon in Al Qaeda’s arsenal.
The following essay is an independently authored synthesis of recent publications by BRUCE RIEDEL, one of President Obama’s leading advisors on Al Qaeda, and RICHARD CLARKE, former U.S. counterterrorism czar. Hundreds of referenced mainstream publications further corroborate this analysis of the Al Qaeda plot to sabotage Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. David Malone is the author of “Bin Laden’s Plan: The Project for the New Al Qaeda Century” (Trafford Publishing, 2008).
As U.S. voters readied to finalize their historic decision in 2008, leading counterterrorism analysts added another dimension to the national debate with an urgent warning[i] about an Al Qaeda plot to support the candidacy of John McCain. The presidential campaign concluded without incident, perhaps because of the heightened alert[ii], and only months later did these forecasts receive conclusive validation through public disclosure of the original blueprint for the Mumbai massacre.
Executed via Al Qaeda’s loyal affiliate[iii] Lashkar-e-Taiba[iv], the act of mega-terrorism on American Thanksgiving congregations typified the syndicate’s attacks against U.S. civilian targets in the Muslim world by ironically killing mostly non-American bystanders. The rampaging hunt for U.S. civilians and American allies[v] in Southeast Asia’s chief[vi] financial hub was ostensibly framed in Day 1 when the high command issued a simultaneous claim of responsibility, a characteristically vague anti-American diatribe from Osama bin Laden’s top deputy[vii]. Additionally, the massacre targeted a Jewish community center popular with Israelis, clearly framing the attack in the context of Al Qaeda’s seminal 1998 declaration of global war on both Americans and Jews. This Israeli dimension to the targets also harkened to Al Qaeda’s 2004 terrorist surge against America prior to the U.S. presidential election, which had involved the only major attacks targeting both Israeli and U.S. citizens ever conducted (joint bombings of the Israeli and U.S. embassies in Uzbekistan during July, along with the bombing of an American hotel popular with Israeli tourists in Egypt during October). After weeks of public speculation about the identity of the real mastermind and his primary objective, a grand ulterior motive was divulged by intelligence gleaned from the lone surviving assailant. The captured gunman confirmed suspicions that, until a last-minute postponement, this trademark[viii] Al Qaeda operation targeting America abroad had been scheduled to occur five weeks before the U.S. presidential election[ix].
If the Mumbai massacre had proceeded unobstructed and been executed according to plan, the official investigation further revealed, at 7:30PM on the slated September 30th D-Day Al Qaeda would have triggered history’s largest terrorist attack. While U.S. voters made their final deliberations, the 9/11 masterminds endeavored to produce a multi-day, suicidal hostage drama featuring Americans overseas designed to kill five thousand people[x]. In a bid to nearly double the unrivaled death toll at the World Trade Center, these multiple simultaneous massacres would have coupled devastating attacks on India’s stock exchange and the U.S. consulate with demolitions of the two premier hotel towers within the financial district of the “New York City” of the world’s largest democracy[x]. By perpetrating a 9/11-style assault on the Western economy that paralyzed Southeast Asia’s leading commercial center for three days, Al Qaeda hoped to terrorize foreign investors in another key financial hub. The plotted series of coordinated bomb and gun assaults targeting Americans aspired not only to imitate but to exceed the 9/11 attack, marking a new threshold for Al Qaeda terrorism. Even after the heavily armed commando raid was detected, delayed until America’s Thanksgiving holiday and then partially thwarted[xi], the protracted slaughter of 166 civilians marked the biggest terrorist event aimed at U.S. citizens since 9/11[xii].
Most ominously, the three-day running battle across India’s “Wall Street” district portrayed a cataclysmic sequel to the commando raid on the country’s parliament that had killed twelve and nearly provoked a nuclear war between archrivals India and Pakistan three months after the apocalyptic attack of 9/11[xiii]. Apparently attempting to prompt a similar outcome[xiv], Al Qaeda’s high command used the same paramilitary offshoot of Pakistan’s central intelligence service to launch another earthshaking attack on the Indian homeland. Killing over ten times as many civilians as in 2001, this latest attack via the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba was directly connected to the LET commanders in Pakistan by an obvious trail of evidence, which included cell phone records, GPS devices and a captured Pakistani operative[xiv]. The fact that the massacre’s true directors, Bin Laden’s inner circle, also operate from Pakistan served to stoke further Indian suspicions of some official state sponsorship. Perhaps conspicuous to a fault, Al Qaeda’s false-flag operation inside the financial capital of India aspired to rekindle the world’s most[xv] precarious conflict between the two most crucial U.S. allies in Southeast Asia. The terrorist syndicate’s first 9/11-scale attack on India succeeded in pitting America's most well funded Muslim ally against a Hindu ally that had recently acquired advanced nuclear technology from the United States (the only Southeast Asian nation to enjoy such a relationship with the superpower). America’s close relationship with the two nations coupled with the superpower’s natural role as nuclear mediator to mandate U.S. involvement in managing the nuclear brinkmanship caused by the Mumbai massacre.
In addition to directly threatening America and stoking Indo-Pakistani tensions, the massacre attacked the United States on the most influential front of the 9/11 war. The military fallout from Mumbai on the U.S.-led campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban jeopardized America’s entire war effort. Reminiscent of another dimension of the aforementioned raid on India’s capital in 2001, the Mumbai operation served its orchestrators by sparking a crisis along Pakistan’s eastern border with India that threatened[xvi] to siphon troops from the Pakistani military deployment against Al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Northwestern Pakistan. By prompting an Indo-Pakistani conflict, the massacre also increased the Pakistani government's implicit support for the Taliban insurgency against the perceived Indo-American military occupation in neighboring Afghanistan, while decreasing Pakistan's motivation to confront this Taliban insurgency’s stronghold in Pakistan. Finally, by using Lashkar-e-Taiba as its front group and obscuring its own supervision of the plot, Al Qaeda has forced Pakistan to retaliate on a group that the government created and still covertly supports, diminishing the possible Pakistani retaliation for the massacre, particularly on Al Qaeda. In turn, this reluctance to pursue the perpetrators of India’s 9/11 has only heightened the rising animosity between India and Pakistan. Ultimately, this multi-faceted attack threatened to destabilize both Afghanistan and the country that is the sole Muslim nuclear power and the sanctuary of Al Qaeda's high command, the epicenter of the 9/11 war. In this manner, the Mumbai massacre manipulated U.S. preoccupation with the 9/11 War in Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan in order to maximize the impact on the American mindset.
Despite Al Qaeda’s success in:
the high command did not accomplish its ulterior objective for the Mumbai massacre. Framed in the context of a new 9/11 attack, this multi-dimensional attack on the United States, Israel, India and Pakistan was calculated to inspire terror, rage and a typical display of American indomitability. In particular, by threatening to spark the unprecedented[xvii] terrorist disaster envisioned by the masterminds, the original plot had posed the specter of U.S. involvement in nuclear brinkmanship during the final pivotal weeks of the national debate over the presidency. Ultimately, this provocation sought and failed to goad American voters and a lame-duck Bush Administration into a belligerent retaliation against the Muslim perpetrators and the surrounding populace, which would have only heightened the vilification of the superpower that began in earnest with the globally decried Iraq invasion.
The silent deferment of the Mumbai massacre from its election-eve launch date represented the operation’s greatest tactical misstep. Instead of entering the decisive month of October preoccupied by history’s largest terrorist attack, America’s undecided voters predominantly focused on other issues that did not favor the war hawk John McCain. Al Qaeda’s inability to rig America’s 2008 election reverberates today in the dovish beneficiary’s campaign for U.S. rapproachment with the Muslim world. As a pivotal missed opportunity for Al Qaeda, the Mumbai massacre harkens to the failure of the 9/11 cell to coincide their own four-pronged attack with the 2000 election-eve period and, after postponement, a July 2001 visit to the White House by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon[xviii]. In another powerful demonstration of the importance of timing to Al Qaeda’s strategy, a fortuitous operational delay in the fall of 2008 hindered the syndicate’s most devastating attack on America to date.
CONTEXT: AL QAEDA’S LARGEST POST-9/11 SURGE
The election-eve catastrophe in Mumbai would have occurred within a blitz already distinguished as Al Qaeda’s greatest surge of terrorism against the United States since 9/11[xii]. This rogue campaign to bolster one candidate’s bid for the American presidency actually began on July 9, 2008 in Turkey with the syndicate’s first major attack on a U.S. civilian target in nearly three years. Echoing the syndicate’s bombing of the British consulate in the same city during 2003, the strike against the U.S. consulate in Istanbul marked only the third major terrorist attack by Al Qaeda on an official American target since 9/11. Executed in the cultural center of moderate Islam, at the crossroads between Western civilization and the Muslim world, Al Qaeda’s attack on the superpower’s premier symbol in the ancient capital of the Eastern Roman Empire signaled a new campaign to rattle America’s mindset with terrorist catastrophes along geopolitical faultlines. Timed to maximize the death count by coinciding with the Istanbul rush hour, the deadly commando raid on the U.S. consulate was bravely repelled by local security forces[xix], who suffered the only casualties. The muffled opening salvo of a new commando-style offensive set the defining tone for its overall success in fulfilling the 9/11 masterminds’ colossal ambition to rig the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
Typical of Al Qaeda’s modus operandi, the new terrorist campaign that had begun in Turkey with a smaller “warning” attack was set to escalate into multiple cataclysms. During the deciding weeks before America’s momentous vote, the 2008 surge by Al Qaeda’s high command exploded on cue across the Muslim world with two more “hard-target” strikes against the United States. A fortnight before the planned climax in the financial capital of the Muslim world, Al Qaeda’s first large-scale attack on a U.S. embassy in ten years nearly killed dozens of Americans inside Yemen’s capital. Involving a commando raid coupled with a car bomb, this assault employed tactics virtually identical to the preceding attack on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul. Had the complex in Sanaa not been valiantly defended by local security forces, the syndicate’s notorious branch “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (rechristened in early 2009) would have live-broadcast to voters a particularly gruesome mass execution of U.S. civilians at an American fortress in the heartland of Islam and Big Oil[xx].
Striking again days later with a truck bomb in Pakistan’s capital, Bin Laden’s inner circle threatened to revert the sole Islamic nuclear power to military rule. Only one week before the anticipated incitement of Indo-Pakistani brinkmanship on September 30th, the Mumbai massacre’s apocalyptic precursor in Islamabad ostensibly aimed to assassinate the government’s pro-American leadership while they were attending a counterterrorism conference. Based on the attack’s location and the extent of the destruction, observers quickly designated the strike as “Pakistan’s 9/11”. This richly symbolic act of Al Qaeda terrorism succeeded in gutting Pakistan’s premier American hotel but, possibly due to heightened security, failed to coincide with the presence of its main targets[xxi]. Undaunted, Al Qaeda operatives prepared to culminate the 2008 campaign with the demolitions of India’s premier hotels in the backdrop of the syndicate’s largest commando raid. Only after heightened security at the Mumbai targets precluded the likelihood of operational success was the massacre postponed and the U.S. election spared from the high command’s elaborate conspiracy.
Perhaps the most crucial element of this terrorist campaign to rig America’s 2008 presidential election involved the incitement of brinkmanship between Souteast Asia’s nuclear rivals. Coupled with the Al Qaeda bid to destabilize and militarize Pakistan, a coordinated series of catastrophic bombings against India leading up to the Mumbai massacre constituted the basis for this perilous scheme. Aptly christened by the acronym “Operation B-A-D”, this parallel plot to Al Qaeda’s surge against America included major terrorist strikes in the leading Indian cities of Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Dehli and finally Mumbai. An Al Qaeda front-group known as the Indian Mujahedeen immediately claimed responsibility for each of these attacks in India. This group had declared “open war” on India two months before the operation’s inception, ostensibly because of India’s alliance with America in the 9/11 War.
Like the 2008 campaign against U.S. targets, this shadow operation inside India began in the pivotal “preamble” month of July and eventually converged with its twin campaign in the nexus of Mumbai. At the opening of July, the Al Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani network set the foundation for Operation BAD with a major attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, the long-established proxy battlefield between Indian and Pakistan. Marking Al Qaeda’s most effective terrorist precursor to India’s 9/11, the embassy bombing alone sparked the worst violation of the five-year-old Indo-Pakistani cease fire in Kashmir. Consistent with a long-established Al Qaeda trend, the assault on the Hindu support for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan represented the “due warning” issued to India as a necessary precursor for the planned 9/11-scale attack in Mumbai.
Following this inception in early July, the Indian Mujahedeen began its largest surge of attacks since the group had first started its terrorist campaign in 2007. The surge included major bombings in Bangalore and Ahmedabad only two days apart at the end of July. On the day the Mumbai massacre was postponed, September 27th, Operation BAD continued with major bombings in India’s capital New Dehli. Typical of Al Qaeda terrorism, this three-pronged operation was distinguished from the terrorist attacks that occur regularly within India because of the shocking death tolls produced by the bombings. Additionally, this 2008 plot echoed Al Qaeda’s actions during the previous U.S. national election. In the summer of 2006, the syndicate employed the same tactic of coupling highly publicized threats against American civilians (the aborted attempt to destroy ten inbound U.S. commerical airliners using liquid explosives) with a bid to spark nuclear brinkmanship via a successful catastrophic bombing in Mumbai that had killed 209 civilians. Perhaps displeased with the defeat of George Bush's party in 2006, Al Qaeda’s next attempt to influence the U.S. national election featured real strikes on American civilians and an even more concerted attempt at inciting Indo-Pakistani hostilities. Five large-scale terrorist attacks against India, climaxing with the delayed Mumbai massacre, demonstrated Al Qaeda’s commitment to this multi-faceted ambition.
Despite numerous shortcomings, Al Qaeda’s four-pronged campaign against America in late 2008 marked a stunning offensive in the seven-year-old 9/11 War that had previously involved only five major terrorist attacks on America overseas[xii]. Even though U.S. intelligence anticipated[i, ii] Al Qaeda’s 2008 plot and security forces deflected each of these strikes in Turkey, Yemen, Pakistan and India, the pre-election surge against the United States still managed to kill over sixty people. Had the entire Al Qaeda campaign proceeded as planned, four assaults on the U.S. civilian presence in the Middle East and five major terrorist attacks on India would have:
Trying to echo 9/11 with another earthshaking September, America’s greatest nemesis aimed to revert the nation’s election-eve mindset to that terrifying millennial day.
MOTIVE: CRUSADER BAITING
During the final decisive weeks of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, from September 17th (the Yemen attack) through October 2nd (the scheduled conclusion of the Mumbai massacre), Al Qaeda tried to influence the vote with a concerted psychological operation. This scheme constituted the syndicate’s greatest post-9/11 terrorist surge against the United States, to be climaxed with an attempted 9/11 targeting Americans at the center of the world’s most volatile nuclear stand-off. Considering the closely contested status of the presidential race prior to the unforeseen U.S. financial meltdown of September 2008[xxii], Al Qaeda’s high command had reason to believe that its shocking terrorist campaign could swing the vote. If the “October Surprise” plot had been properly executed and not eclipsed by economic concerns[xxiii], America’s foremost adversary would have reframed the imminent election for the office of Commander-in-Chief as a referendum on John McCain’s most popular issues, counterterrorism and national security. Newly preoccupied with the war on Al Qaeda and the threat of a nuclear conflict, a critical fraction of U.S. voters may well have succumbed to psychological manipulation and tilted the presidential campaign in favor of the hawkish Republican candidate. Not for the first time, Bin Laden’s inner circle hoped to goad the superpower into a typical display of American indomitability.
This foreign intervention in the U.S. electoral process would have mirrored at least two successful plots by Bin Laden to influence America’s election-eve mindset with October Surprises. During the weeks before George Bush’s presidential elections, the terrorist chieftain unleashed two particularly devastating assaults on America. With his most audacious terrorist attack to date in October 2000 and his most influential video broadcast ever in October 2004, Bin Laden swayed a decisive number of votes in each of the close presidential contests to change the course of U.S. history[xxiv]. By reversing the inclination of some undecided voters to elect Bush’s dovish opponents, the psychological operations had radically redefined U.S. foreign policy in favor of Al Qaeda. Instead of embracing the prudent counterinsurgency tactics promised by candidates Al Gore and John Kerry, a hijacked American electorate had flown helplessly into Bin Laden’s “war-hawk” trap.
Continuing a biennial tradition of attempts to rig the U.S. national ballot, the Mumbai-massacre plot pursued Bin Laden’s long-standing ambition to prepare and provoke U.S. invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond[xxv]. Reliving the Soviet fate in Afghanistan at the end of the Cold War, America would sink deeper into a debilitating military quagmire in the Muslim world that already threatens to bankrupt the superpower. As a result of Bin Laden’s past October Surprises, the United States has engaged recklessly in a war against an Islamist insurgency that severely depleted the nation’s ideological and financial capital, while enriching Al Qaeda’s support structure with popular anti-American sentiment and wealthier oil-rich patrons. Had enough Barack Obama voters decided differently, America would have facilitated this crusader-baiting strategy by electing George W. Bush’s Republican successor, the military hawk John McCain. U.S. war policy would then have been crippled by a perpetuation of the seemingly imperial Bush doctrine that made Bin Laden’s global insurgency as strong as ever by 2007[xxvi]. Representing a major setback for Al Qaeda’s efforts to foment hatred of America, the election of Barack Obama signaled[xxvi] a momentous reversal on the central battlefield of the 9/11 War, the ideological front.
In the public record of President Obama’s ascendancy, the greatest missing link could be that Al Qaeda failed for the first time to support the Republican presidential candidate. Considering the likely continuation of this election-eve trend in 2010 and 2012, the United States must publicly acknowledge the revolutionary terrorist tactic of October Surprises before the increasingly brazen high command triumphs again with such voter manipulation. Moreover, after eight years of the Bush presidency, Americans face a moral obligation to understand that the superpower’s response to an Al Qaeda attack ultimately determines the success of the terrorist scheme.
In reality, Bin Laden’s war has
not consisted of righteous military offensives, but of devious
operations to provoke militarism. As a
demonstration of this important lesson, the exposed Mumbai plot could
positively influence both U.S. voters and the leaders of the
nuclear stand-off, while simultaneously inflicting an ideological
the Al Qaeda syndicate.
NOTE: In some cases, references are prefaced with explanatory endnotes.
Analysts issued an urgent warning about election-eve attacks by Al Qaeda;
U.S. intelligence anticipated Al Qaeda’s election plot in 2008:
The author, David Malone, issued a national alert about Al Qaeda’s plot to rig the 2008 U.S. presidential election minutes before the terrorist campaign against U.S. targets began on July 9, 2008 in Turkey.
“The Times helpfully provides a link to Malone's
BinLaden's Plan.com, which claims, among other things, that Osama bin
wanted George W. Bush to win the 2000 and 2004 elections.” (Wall
”The site goes on to claim that Mr. Malone “has successfully predicted some of the major events of Bin Laden’s war” and is now trying to warn of efforts by the terrorist network to goad the United States to invade Pakistan and Iran.” (New York Times)
”Malone called The Daily News three times, speaking in a calm monotone voice about Al Qaeda, what he said was its attempt to influence the American political process and get Republican John McCain elected, and U.S. energy policy.” (New York Daily News)
”Malone says . . . he used the publicity to warn people about a real al-Qaeda plot.” (New York 1 News)
After the syndicate’s attacks against American
the Muslim world accelerated as anticipated during the weeks before the
election, leading counterterrorism experts echoed this warning.
This heightened alert may have thwarted Al Qaeda’s election plot;
U.S. intelligence anticipated Al Qaeda’s election plot in 2008:
In response to this terrorism alert, the United
escalated its siege of Al Qaeda’s high command in Pakistan, pressured
Pakistani government to follow suit, and heightened the alert status for
American presence abroad. Of the four
attacks that constituted Al Qaeda’s pre-election campaign, the two most
significant (Islamabad and Mumbai) were largely thwarted due to
security at the target. In particular,
repeated warnings issued by the CIA prompted Mumbai officials to fortify
defenses around prominent targets, forcing the plotters to postpone the
massacre until after the election.
Authorities have not revealed to what extent this alert coupled
corroborating intelligence to trigger these fortuitous counterterrorism
measures. Additionally, it remains
unclear if the bolstered security precautions and the military siege
Qaeda’s high command deterred any additional terrorist attacks connected
this election plot.
Lashkar-e-Taiba is a loyal affiliate of the Al Qaeda syndicate:
Founded by Osama bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam, Lashkar-e-Taiba has been an official member of the Al Qaeda syndicate since 1998, when one of its leaders signed Bin Laden’s formal declaration of war on America. Since 9/11, the Pakistani paramilitary organization has increasingly intertwined operations with Al Qaeda and submitted to the strategic direction of its high command, as witnessed in numerous plots, including: the December 2001 raid on India’s parliament, the 2005 London commuter bombings, the failed scheme to destroy ten U.S.-bound commercial airliners in the weeks before the 2006 U.S. national elections, as well as numerous lesser terrorist schemes. In addition, Lashkar-e-Taiba has sheltered top Al Qaeda fugitives in Pakistan and coordinated attacks with Al Qaeda against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “Lashkar-e-Taiba and Al Qaeda are allies in the global Islamic jihad,” said Bruce Riedel, who led President Obama’s review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy this year. “They share the same target list, and their operatives often work and hide together.”
The numerous strong connections between Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba conclusively demonstrate their strategic partnership in Bin Laden’s war against America. Accordingly, it is virtually inconceivable that Lashkar-e-Taiba would launch a 9/11 on Americans abroad without the expressed command of the Al Qaeda leadership.
The emergence of the Al Qaeda command sub-unit called the “313 Brigade” as the operational director of Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Pakistani-based Al Qaeda affiliates has solidified the public association of Bin Laden’s syndicate with the foot soldiers of the Mumbai Massacre. In 2009, the 313 Brigade publicly claimed responsibility for this attack. During this lone interview, the commander of the 313 Brigade noted the strategic deference to Al Qaeda’s high command observed by its Pakistani affiliates. “He said he had realised that the ‘entire game was in the hands of the great Satan, the USA’, which has caused the failure to resolve the Palestinian issue, the Kashmir issue and the plight of Afghanistan. ‘So I and many people all across the world realised that analysing the situation in any narrow regional political perspective was an incorrect approach. This is a different ball game altogether for which a unified strategy is compulsory. The defeat of American global hegemony is a must if I want the liberation of my homeland Kashmir, and therefore it provided the reasoning for my presence in this war theatre,’ he added. ‘When I came here I found my step justified; how the world regional powers operate under the umbrella of the great Satan and how they are supportive of its great plans. This can be seen here in Afghanistan,’ he said, adding Al Qaeda’s regional war strategy, in which they have hit Indian targets, was actually to chop off American strength.”
Lashkar-e-Taiba executed the Mumbai massacre:
The Mumbai massacre was principally a rampaging hunt for U.S. civilians:
Representing a conspicuous bid to influence U.S. voters during their final deliberations, the meticulously crafted design for a cataclysmic early-autumn strike on America revolved around a heavily armed “search-and-destroy” mission against U.S. civilians inside India’s “New York City”. Even after the pre-election attack was deterred by heightened security, the masterminds chose to focus the massacre on exclusively American targets, Thanksgiving congregations located at Mumbai’s most prestigious hotels. Framed within a multi-day siege of Western capitalism’s greatest bastion in the Muslim world, the commando-style assaults simultaneously struck four world-famous sites in Mumbai frequented by Americans and citizens of top U.S. allies Britain, Israel and India. Al Qaeda’s high command even ordered the singling out of Westerners, particularly Americans, from other civilians at these locations. This particular criteria for visually identifying the victim’s country of origin was poorly fulfilled when Lashkar-e-Taiba’s methamphetamine-fed operatives,
wielding bombs and machine guns, implemented the postponed plot. Thanksgiving fortune further blessed the intended targets when daunting U.S. security precautions discouraged Al Qaeda’s plan to include the premier symbol of America’s presence in the city, the U.S. consulate.
Mumbai is the leading financial hub of Southeast Asia (and the Muslim world):
Osama bin Laden’s top deputy simultaneously issued an implicit claim of responsibility:
Released during the Mumbai massacre, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s videotaped interview itself echoed the Al Qaeda modus operandi. Characteristically avoiding any explicit claim of responsibility, the syndicate’s operational chief verbally attacked Americans in concert with the commando hunt for U.S. citizens. Without ever directly referencing Mumbai or the ongoing slaughter, the diatribe implicitly identified the city of Mumbai as the terrorist network’s next target. Using Al Qaeda’s purposefully vague language, Zawahiri promised to continue besieging the leading financial bastions of the Western economy in order to bankrupt America. Released in the context of a punishing surge of U.S. predator drone attacks on Al Qaeda’s Pakistani-based high command,
the 9/11 mastermind’s message also vowed urgently to disprove the myth of U.S. military success in Southeast Asia
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda’s leading affiliate executed the world’s most shocking terrorist attack since 9/11, targeting Americans in the foremost financial bastion of Southeast Asia. Of central importance, the Mumbai massacre prompted a renewal of hostilities between nuclear archrivals India and Pakistan, which in turn destabilized the two crucial U.S. allies, increased covert Pakistani support for the Taliban insurgency against the U.S.-Indian military alliance in Afghanistan, as well as shifted Pakistani troops to its eastern border with India and thereby diminished Pakistani military pressure on Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban located in Western Pakistan. In simultaneous fulfillment of Zawahiri’s Thanksgiving threat against American civilian targets, the Western economy and the U.S. military coalition in Afghanistan, for three days Al Qaeda held captive the “New York City” of the top U.S. ally in the region.
Perhaps most convincingly, Zawahiri’s personal claim of responsibility for the Mumbai operation was relayed in another video that he released in the week before the massacre.
In this apparent forewarning, the Al Qaeda leader promised imminent 9/11-scale attacks in the Muslim world against Western targets, particularly Americans. Criticizing the ongoing U.S. military surge against Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia as a doomed endeavor, Zawahiri:
In addition to the presciently accurate language of his warning, the sudden escalation in the pace of video releases by Al Qaeda’s top operational commander at the time of the Mumbai massacre strongly suggested that he had ordered the operation. Compounding the coincidence of the two Zawahiri threats, his Thanksgiving video’s intended release date (marked by the observance of a Muslim holiday) coincided with the massacre’s originally scheduled D-Day [see Endnote [ix]] of September 30, 2008. Interestingly, had the pre-election video recording been released at this time it would have coincided with a major Zawahiri message commemorating the 9/11 attack in which he criticized the role of neighboring nations (without explicitly naming India) in the U.S. war inside Afghanistan.
Apparently, the release of nebulous warnings by Zawahiri in the weeks before and then during the Mumbai massacre represented a crucial element of the plot that was not discarded even after the operation was postponed.
Considering the well established affiliation of the Mumbai gunmen to Al Qaeda’s high command [see Endnote [iii]], the timing of these threats by the syndicate’s operational overlord appears to confirm that Zawahiri was the massacre’s leading mastermind. Most glaringly, he broadcast two messages demonstrating foreknowledge of the plot in order to justify the terrorist attack to the unsuspecting world. Implicitly framing the guerrilla assault within the context of Al Qaeda’s war on America, in the week before and in the hours during the commando raid Zawahiri’s background rhetoric provided crucial propaganda assistance for the Islamist operation. Assuming a most direct role in the plot, the Machiavellan Al Qaeda chief hosted a “fireside chat” with the global audience to guide us through the crisis he created by explaining Al Qaeda’s idealized motivation for the massacre. No major act of terrorism is complete without a resounding message, a maxim not overlooked by Al Qaeda’s bully pulpit during the Mumbai operation. In fact, Zawahiri’s deep personal commitment to this plot most powerfully demonstrated the centrality of the Mumbai massacre to Al Qaeda’s high command.
The Mumbai massacre was a trademark Al Qaeda attack:
The sophisticated Mumbai massacre clearly displayed the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda operation against America, both in its selection of targets and modus operandi.
In a venue already stricken by this same Al Qaeda affiliate [see Endnote [iv]], the masterminds targeted American civilians with a spectacular volly of Al Qaeda-style attacks, simultaneously unleashed on multiple highly symbolic Western targets in the financial capital of the Muslim world. The sophistication of the coordinated strikes appeared throughout the operation, from the D-Day-style amphibious landing to the commando raid to the hostage crisis, to the catastrophic death toll and disruption to the mega-city. Launched in the context of Al Qaeda’s 9/11 War against the superpower, responsible for every major terrorist attack on Americans abroad since the millennium, the attempt to execute the largest terrorist attack in history by demolishing two hotel towers in Mumbai [see Endnote [x]] clearly bore the signature of the world’s most notorious terrorist network. Finally, the disclosure that the plotters successfully executed the most spectacular terrorist attack since 9/11 despite having divulged the plot to Indian security two months earlier [see Endnote [xi]] powerfully distinguishes the professionalism of the attack.
The Thanksgiving-Day slaughter marked the first major terrorist attack on Westerners in Indian history, but certainly not in Al Qaeda’s history. Mimicking the four-pronged 9/11 attack, as well as the syndicate’s four-pronged bombings of the capitals of Britain and Spain, the massacre targeted four landmarks within India’s “New York City”. The designated sites for the attack included the two hotels most frequented by Westerners, a Jewish community center popular with Israelis and a major train station. This meticulously designed strike conspicuously singled out Al Qaeda’s foremost enemies, members of “the Crusader-Zionist-Hindu Alliance”,
particularly Americans [see Endnote [v]]. This target set harkens to the conspicuous fact that Al Qaeda is the only known group actively conducting major terrorist attacks against America or Israel abroad.
In addition to the nationalities of the civilians, the types of landmarks selected matched targets of previous Al Qaeda attacks. As an act of terrorism crafted to oust foreigners from the home of India’s stock exchange, the massacre represented a continuation of Al Qaeda’s inclination since 9/11 for assaults on high-profile symbols of the Western economy.
In particular, the Mumbai plotters echoed past Al
attacks in their focus on two towering buildings, premier hotels, the
central train station, the Jewish center, the Indian stock exchange and
U.S. consulate (two aborted targets [see Endnote [v]]). Since toppling the Twin Towers of the World
Trade Center, Al Qaeda has launched major terrorist attacks on:
The 2008 commando raid on India’s “New York City” most closely resembles an aborted 1993 plot against New York City by the Al Qaeda plotters behind the first World Trade Center bombing.
Involving a commando raid on premier hotels and commuter targets, the “New York Landmarks” plot even included the use of watercraft. Perhaps more than any attack since 9/11, the Mumbai massacre focused on a target set exclusive to Al Qaeda.
Against these distinctive targets of Bin Laden’s global insurgency, the Mumbai masterminds employed Al Qaeda-style tactics. Most conspicuously, the propaganda front of the attack consisted of messages from Al Qaeda’s operational chief that demonstrated foreknowledge of the plot [see Endnote [vii]]. The paramilitary front of the massacre also exhibited exclusively Al Qaeda hallmarks, including an act of mega-terrorism using small groups of well-trained
suicidal killers based in the Pakistani city of Karachi, a longtime citadel of Al Qaeda’s global jihad.
Along with these unique characteristics of traditional Al Qaeda terrorism, the incursion prominently featured one of the group’s more recent innovations, the commando-style raid and hostage drama. Ever since the 9/11 attack, Al Qaeda’s modus operandi has gravitated from bombings to more audacious armed assaults with heavy machine guns, grenades and larger bombs. The syndicate repeatedly employed this tactic in major terrorist attacks targeting: Russia in October 2002 / September 2004, Saudi Arabia in May 2003 / May 2004 / December 2004, Turkey in July 2008, and Yemen in September 2008. The most relevant precedent for such a commando attack occurred on the same day in 2001 that Al Qaeda’s high command fled to Pakistan. Acting to redirect the Pakistani army away from Al Qaeda’s new western safe haven, the same affiliate that launched the Mumbai massacre, Lashkar-e-Taiba, launched one of these armed assaults against the Indian parliament.
Unlike any of the other numerous terrorist attacks that regularly occur in India, this colossal commando strike three months after 9/11 instigated a round of nuclear brinkmanship between Indian and Pakistan. More than the targets and modus operandi of the 2008 Mumbai massacre, the recurrence of this apocalyptic element displayed the fingerprints of Bin Laden’s millennialist cult.
The Mumbai massacre was originally scheduled to begin at 7:30PM on September 30, 2008:
After nearly a year of preparations, the plotters of the Mumbai massacre planned to leave their launchpad of Karachi by boat on September 27, 2008, and arrive in Mumbai to begin the multi-day hostage drama at 7:30PM on September 30th. The arrest of some plotters on September 24th and the heightening of security around the Mumbai targets at this time forced the terrorists to postpone the plot until America’s Thanksgiving holiday, when the terrorism alert in Mumbai had finally subsided and security was downgraded.
The Mumbai-massacre plot was designed to kill five thousand people:
Like the 9/11 attack, the Mumbai massacre plot aimed to kill thousands of civilians by demolishing two of a nation’s premier buildings. However, the Mumbai gunmen failed to detonate the explosives that they had begun to plant in the two targeted hotels, aborting this most catastrophic element of the plot. Instead of the planned five-thousand death toll, the terrorists only managed to kill a fraction of this number, 166 civilians. Nevertheless, the three-day siege of India’s “New York City” marked the most spectacular terrorist event since 9/11. Although Al Qaeda attacks in Indonesia (Bali, 2002), Spain (Madrid, 2004), Russia (Beslan, 2004) and India (Mumbai, 2006) each involved greater death tolls, these previous attacks all involved bombings contained to a few locations. With a murder count approaching its most deadly acts of mega-terrorism since 9/11, Al Qaeda achieved an even greater terror value through the brazen commando raid and hostage drama that lasted for three days across the heartland of India’s financial capital.
The Mumbai-massacre plot originally targeted the U.S. consulate and the Indian stock exchange. Although these ambitious targets were eventually nixed because of their apparently insurmountable defenses, the perpetrators did attempt to demolish the Taj and Oberon hotels with planted explosives. As the bombers were setting the charges in place inside the hotels, Indian security forces interceded them and prevented this element of the plot from succeeding:
The Mumbai-massacre plot was detected and postponed:
The Mumbai massacre was the largest terrorist attack on U.S. civilians since 9/11;
During the period of July 9-September 20, 2008, Al Qaeda launched its greatest surge of terrorism against the United States since 9/11;
Prior to Al Qaeda’s four-pronged terrorist campaign in late 2008, the high command had only launched five major terrorist attacks on America abroad since 9/11:
During the seven years before Al Qaeda’s 2008 campaign, the high command had launched only five major post-9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. targets (Saudi Arabia, May 2003; Uzbekistan, July 2004; Egypt, October 2004; Saudi Arabia, December 2004; Jordan, November 2005). In a dramatic surge during a five-month period in late 2008, the Al Qaeda syndicate executed four such attacks (Turkey, July 2008; Yemen, September 2008; Pakistan, September 2008; India, November 2008). This four-pronged plot climaxed with the most catastrophic act of terrorism targeting Americans since 9/11,
a three-day siege of India’s “New York City”. Notably, the first three months of Al
Qaeda’s 2008 surge included two strikes against official U.S. targets (a
consulate in Turkey and the embassy in Yemen), whereas the syndicate’s
seven-year post-9/11 campaign consisted of two strikes (the July 2004
of the U.S. embassy in Uzbekistan and the December 2004 raid on the U.S.
consulate in Jeddah). The increase in
the frequency and magnitude of Al Qaeda’s attacks on U.S. civilians
Muslim world during 2008 represented the greatest offensive in the
war against America since 9/11.
Note: This analysis solely examines large-scale attacks, meaning either successful assaults on “hard targets” or strikes that produced large death tolls. Only such large-scale attacks specifically targeting U.S. civilians outside of war zones are classified here as major terrorist acts against America. This form of terrorism constitutes the most politically significant weapon in Al Qaeda’s war against the United States, whereas all other terrorist or insurgent attacks wield far less influence over Americans. Al Qaeda strikes within U.S. war theatres (including the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region) or against other groups are not considered in this analysis of terrorism against America because those incidents represent either insurgent warfare or terrorist acts aimed at non-American populations.
Note(2): The August 2003 bombing of the American-owned hotel Marriott in Indonesia’s capital is discluded from this analysis even though it was a major terrorist attack on a U.S. target executed by an Al Qaeda affiliate. Like the terrorist excesses against Muslims overtly committed by the Zarqawi network in Iraq over the next three years, this strike appears to have represented a rare instance when a member of the Al Qaeda syndicate disobeyed the high command’s standing order to refrain from launching unauthorized attacks on America.
<For more on the August 2003 Indonesia bombing, see: “Osama's Revenge: THE NEXT 9/11: What the Media and the Government Haven't Told You” by Paul L. Williams, 2004, p.111-112>
<For more on Al Qaeda’s strategy to refrain from attacking the U.S. homeland during the two terms of the Bush Administration, see “Bin Laden’s Plan: The Project for the New Al Qaeda Century” by David Malone, Trafford Publishing, 2008, ch.8>
For a chronology of Al Qaeda attacks, see the article "The Size of Al Qaeda".
The December 2001 raid on the Indian parliament nearly provoked a nuclear war:
The Mumbai masterminds aimed to incite nuclear brinkmanship:
The Mumbai massacre left an obvious trail of evidence back to Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan:
The Indo-Pakistani conflict is the world’s most precarious nuclear stand-off:
In a conversation with colleague Bruce Riedel, Daniel Benjamin explains the widespread belief that the Indo-Pakistani conflict poses the most imminent danger of nuclear war. "Unlike I think just about every other attack since 9/11, it (the Mumbai massacre) has the potential for profound geopolitical consequences in a region of the world that is uniquely volatile, where there are nuclear weapons, where there are more terrorists than anywhere else, and where there are countries that have had a history of going to war with one another more frequently than perhaps anywhere else." Even prior to 9/11, during the “Kargil conflict” between these two nuclear archrivals of Southeast Asia, President Clinton echoed Benjamin’s observations.
The Mumbai massacre threatened to prompt the diversion of the Pakistani military away from Al Qaeda’s safe havens along the Afghan-Pakistan border:
The Mumbai massacre plot envisioned an unprecedented terrorist attack:
Among the many acts of terrorism that have occurred during the post-9/11 age, the prolonged massacre and hostage drama in the heartland of India’s “New York City” reverberates as the greatest act of mega-terrorism. The three-day paralysis
of the nuclear power’s economic center risked geopolitical fallout that could have even rivaled 9/11. The Mumbai plot aimed to achieve such an unprecedented terrorist disaster by portraying a catastrophic sequel to the commando raid on the New Delhi parliament that nearly provoked a nuclear war between India and Pakistan in 2001-2002. Any major provocation, especially the most incindiary act of post-9/11 terrorism, conducted amidst the world’s most sensitive nuclear stand-off poses the realistic potential of developing into the defining event in human history. Only India’s remarkable restraint prevented this latest tragedy in Mumbai from evolving into an even greater success for the nihilistic plotters.
Although the U.S.-armed nuclear power has suffered thousands of terrorist incidents in recent years, including two with slightly higher death tolls (257 victims in 1993, 209 victims in 2006), the Mumbai massacre (166 victims) marked the nation’s most devastating act of mega-terrorism because of the plotters’ choice in targets and delivery method. Hypothetically, a terrorist attack against the poor masses of Mumbai could claim five thousand victims and have less political impact than the Mumbai massacre. Instead focusing on targets with maximum symbolic value, Al Qaeda’s guerrillas executed the first major terrorist attack against foreigners inside India. Most influentially, the rampage occurred at world-famous tourist destinations for Americans within the financial capital of a country driven by foreign investment.
As much as the Mumbai raid represented the most high-profile attack on both the U.S. presence in the Muslim world and the Indian economy, the massacre also targeted the Israeli presence in the city at the local Jewish community center. By including Israelis along with Americans and Indians as the intended victims, the militants directly targeted the three leading world powers popularly identified by Islamist propaganda as the “Great Satan” Western triuvirate responsible for oppressing Muslims.
This symbolic success represented the most comprehensive targeting for a major attack perpetrated by the global Islamist insurgency currently led by Al Qaeda. Unlike any other incident in India’s history, these three days of meticulously focused terror inside Mumbai transformed the country from a nation simply locked in conflict with Pakistan over the Kashmir region into a frontline of Al Qaeda’s global conflict.
In addition to successful targeting, the attack in Mumbai achieved a maximum terror dividend by employing a cutting-edge tactic, the commando-hostage drama. Compared to suicide bombings, commando raids featuring hostage crises reap greater value for a terrorist by dragging out the horrific spectacle over a longer period of time. The brazen defiance of law and order itself amplifies terror by demonstrating the shocking inadequacy of security forces. As evinced in the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, along with other Al Qaeda-ordered strikes [see Endnote [viii]], even botched commando raids and hostage dramas have proven to be valuable means of inciting fear. The relatively small death toll for the 2001 assault, the most direct terrorist attack on the Indian government, indicates that this bold tactic can be as effective a provocation as record-breaking casualties.
The Mumbai plot successully utilized such a terrorist blitzkrieg, along with high-profile targets and nearly unprecedented casualties, to produce India’s most catastrophic act of terrorism. Inside the great bastion of the Western economy in the Muslim world, within the context of the Indo-Pakistani conflict, the masterminds struck earth-shaking fault lines in the global community and shocked spectators with a rare nuclear scare. Beyond the actual achievements of the Mumbai massacre plot, the masterminds aspired for unprecedented terrorism that would (1) kill five thousand civilians [see Endnote [x]] within the world’s most precipitous nuclear flashpoint (2) in an attack targeting Americans on the eve of the U.S. presidential election [see Endnote [ix]]. Has this plot fully succeeded, its value as a terrorist act would have been unmatched in world history.
Osama bin Laden ordered the 9/11 cell to coincide their four-pronged attack with the 2000 election-eve period and, after postponement, a July 2001 visit to the White House by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon:
“9/11 Commission Report”, p.250:
Security forces at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, bravely repelled the July 2008 attack by Al Qaeda:
The Al Qaeda attack on the U.S. embassy in Yemen marked the first major attack on a U.S. embassy in ten years. The strike nearly killed dozens of Americans. Had the complex not been valiantly defended by local security forces, the assailants would have used explosive vests to execute the American hostages one at a time:
Possibly due to heightened security, Al Qaeda’s catastrophic bombing of the Marriot in Islamabad failed to coincide with the presence of its main targets, the Pakistani government’s leadership:
Candidates Barack Obama and John McCain were virtually tied in the U.S. presidential race before the late September onset of the U.S. economic meltdown:
Al Qaeda was eclipsed as an issue during the 2008 American presidential campaign by the U.S. financial meltdown of late September. In a political atmosphere where economic concerns benefited the Democratic challenger, this crisis ironically sabotaged the terrorist syndicate’s designs by swaying undecided voters in favor of Barack Obama:
The USS COLE bombing in October 2000 and Bin Laden’s most influential video broadcast in October 2004 each swayed a decisive number of undecided voters in the imminent presidential elections:
Bin Laden’s long-standing ambition has been to prepare and provoke U.S. invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond:
“Bin Laden’s Plan: The
Project for the New Al Qaeda
by David Malone, Trafford Publishing, 2008, p.1-230:
A publication by Bruce Riedel, President Obama’s leading advisor on Al Qaeda:
A publication by Richard Clarke, former U.S. counterterrorism czar:
A publication by Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's Bin Laden Unit:
Through Our Enemies Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam and the Future of America
by Michael Scheuer (former head of the CIA's Bin Laden Unit), 2006, p. 230-231.
Leading counterterrorism experts widely agreed in 2007 that the Al Qaeda syndicate was as strong as ever:
President Obama’s election greatly damaged Al Qaeda’s ideological campaign to villainize America.
On the 2008 election plot:
On the Mumbai massacre:
On Al Qaeda’s strategy of crusader-baiting:
On the 2008 election plot:
On the Mumbai massacre:
On Al Qaeda’s strategy of crusader-baiting:
On the original Mumbai plot:
Bin Laden’s Plan by David Malone (Trafford Publishing, 2008)
On Al Qaeda’s previous election plots
On Al Qaeda’s strategy of crusader-baiting