The commandos of the National Security Guards (NSG) could have launched operations in Mumbai at least three hours earlier had they been alerted on time, given a special aircraft immediately and provided clear roads for their movement.
Top NSG sources told HT that these factors handicapped rapid response that could have saved many more lives. The terrorists had more time to hole themselves up in defensive positions.
The Black Cats stationed in Manesar, near Gurgaon, were alerted at midnight on Wednesday, two and half hours after the terrorists struck. They had to drive to the Palam airport in trucks because air force helicopters did not have night flying capabilities. After loading equipment, ammunition and stores in trucks, the commandos took an hour to reach the airport.
The police had made no arrangements to facilitate swift movement as laid down in the rulebook.
An NSG commando, who took part in the Trident-Oberoi operations, said: “We can launch operations 30 minutes after being
alerted. The commandos were ready for combat at 12.30 am (Thursday). We could have reached the hostage sites at least three hours earlier.”
A military transport (IL-76) was provided by the Aviation Research Centre, which is a part of the Research and Analysis Wing, to fly the Black Cats to Mumbai. Its crew had to be woken up and the plane refuelled. The NSG does not have its own fixed wing aircraft. The home ministry has not responded to its demand for an aircraft. The NSG can charter a plane but that takes time.
K. Subramanyam, a member of the Kargil Committee Report, told HT, “The NSG should have been based closer to an airfield. It must have its own aircraft that are operationally ready at all times.”
Operations at Trident-Oberoi began only at 10.30 am, 13 hours after the terrorists had taken control. NSG sources said, “The outcome of the operations could have been different had we been given early warning and briefed in advance.”