As leaders of India’s security establishment went hopping from one meeting to another in Delhi to review the anti-terrorist operation in Mumbai, central security agencies insisted the terrorists who had hit at the financial capital to derail Indo-Pak relations -- were Lashkar-e-Taiba members operating out of Pakistan.
There were intelligence inputs that about a dozen terrorists had travelled by sea to Gujarat two days back and used a fishing vessel to reach close to Mumbai. “From there, they took used a motor boat to reach Sassoon Dock in Colaba, downtown Mumbai," a senior home ministry official said after review meetings convened by Home Minister Shivraj Patil, National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar.
Special Secretary at the Home Ministry, ML Kumawat, said after landing at the docks the terrorists used the congested finishing colony near Sassoon dock, the pre-independence dock build by a Baghdadi Jew, before moving into south Mumbai.
Kumawat said the Lashkar was a distinct possibility, other intelligence officials emphasised the Al Qaeda-inspired LeT was on the top of their suspect list in light of their intelligence inputs, scale of attack, the sophistication of the planning and execution and the sophisticated weaponry.
“This was not the job of a splinter group, like the Indian Mujahideen or someone who calls themselves, Deccan Mujahideen… Given how they were targeting foreigners of British and American origin, it seems to be an Al Qaeda-inspired affair,” another intelligence official said.
Officers at the Indian Navy – that launched a search for the mother ship -- confirmed this line.
“A mother ship or a Dhow appears to have ferried them to a particular point from where they boarded Gemini boats, the inflatable boats that have a capacity of carrying about 10 people and run on petrol. With its 20-litre tank full, these boats can travel up to 25-30 nautical miles,” a naval officer said.
“We suspect the mother ship, travelling at a speed of 20 nautical miles per hour, could have crossed about 400 nautical miles (740 km) by now,” he said.
The Navy has pressed warships, choppers and surveillance aircraft to scour high seas in and around Mumbai. It intercepted MV Alpha, a Vietnamese registered ship, but let it pass after a thorough search.
“We know more than we can speak about…. We do not want to jeopardise the lives of the hostages,” a senior official at the Union home ministry later said.
“There is still no unanimity on the number of terrorists we are dealing with. They are spread out in the hotel buildings,” the official said. “This is an operation which will have to go floor by floor, hostage by hostage,” he said.