An advance team of security personnel securing the Oberoi in Mumbai for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit at a function on November 29 had no idea of persistent terror alerts for several sea-facing hotels in that city.
These alerts had been sounded by the country’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) not once but four times, as reported exclusively by Hindustan Times on Tuesday. <b1>
HT has learnt that a team of Special Protection Group (SPG), the outfit that protects past and present PMs and their families, left the Oberoi barely minutes before terrorists struck on November 26.
This paper reported on Tuesday that R&AW had four intercepts starting September 18 about an operation being planned and launched by the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyeba against Mumbai hotels using the sea route. Though the Oberoi was not among those named in the intercepts — the alerts were against sea-facing hotels. Those named were the Taj Mahal, the Marriott, the Taj Land’s end and the Sea Rock.
The Oberoi also faces the sea. But the SPG had no clue to these alerts.
Every public place that is to host the prime minister for any length of time is checked and sanitized by the SPG one or two days in advance. And every threat perception is considered before the visit is allowed.
Each of these alerts was sent to a centralised intelligence group set up by the National Security Adviser MK Narayanan. Sources in the intelligence agency told HT they don’t know what happened to these alerts. They didn’t at least go to the SPG as it was not aware of these alerts. Officials in the group refused to discuss this issue when contacted for comments.
Hotel sources said that SPG team was asked to stay for dinner. But they declined, and left the hotel minutes before it was stormed by the terrorists.