By mid-September, Indian agencies knew that the attack would come from the sea
The Gateway Of India By mid-September, Indian agencies knew that the attack would come from the sea, by mid-November, they knew that the Taj hotel would be targeted… And yet… and yet… A blow by blow account of how the plan to attack Mumbai by sea was hatched and executed
In mid-September this year, the CIA station chief in Delhi sought an urgent meeting with his counterpart in R&AW to pass on some critical inputs. This was part of an understanding that Indian and American intelligence had institutionalised in the aftermath of 9/11. From its assets in Pakistan and Afghanistan, American intelligence had come to learn that the Lashkar-e-Toiba was planning to launch a major terrorist attack in Mumbai, which would be carried out from the sea.
This input was in conjunction with other inputs that Indian intelligence had received from various other sources. For instance, Riyasuddin, the son of Maulana Nasiruddin, who was under arrest for his alleged involvement in the assassination of the then Gujarat home minister Naren Pandya, had stated in his statements to the police that a sea-borne attack was being planned by certain terrorist groups abroad for an attack on Mumbai.
Similarly other vague inputs had also come in from Uttar Pradesh as well as other sources. But by September 24, Indian intelligence picked up several specific inputs. These were: An LeT module was being trained in a camp around Karachi for launching attacks from the sea for at least three months
Yusuf Muzammil, the chief of operations of the LeT was in contact with an LeT operative stationed in Bangladesh (identified as “Yayah”) who was being asked to procure international SIM cards for an operation that had been planned
Information was also available that the team had been trained by Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, also known as “Chacha” an ageing ideologue who conducted most of the LeT’s training modules.
By the middle of November, as Indian intelligence continued to check out further inputs, the pieces of an intricate jigsaw puzzle began to fall into place. Sources say they learnt that the attack would come from the sea and that the Taj Hotel would be a major target. However, it was not known whether this attack would be carried out by planting bombs in the hotel or by terrorists carrying small arms. Indian intelligence assessments were tilting towards bombs being planted and security at the hotel was beefed up accordingly to prevent terrorists from planting bombs inside the premises.
On November 18, R&AW passed on a specific advisory to the Coast Guard, which serves as the Lead in intelligence Agency for the coastal area. The advisory asked the coast guard to intensify patrolling and look out for a suspicious vessel, probably of Pakistani origin, which had sailed off from Karachi. While the coast guard began to patrol the area with renewed intensity, the terrorists had an entirely different plan.