Country Reports on Terrorism 2008 - India

In 2008, India ranked among the world's most terrorism-afflicted countries. On November 26 in a pivotal moment that is now called "26/11", terrorists struck at a variety of locations in Mumbai on November 26, killing at least 183 people, including 22 foreigners, six of whom were Americans and 14 members of the police and security forces. Over 300 more were injured.

The attacks in Mumbai targeted places frequented by foreigners and wealthy Indians. The attackers entered Mumbai from the sea and attacked people in two hotels, a Jewish center, the main train station, and additional locations. They also planted bombs in two taxis that later exploded in different locations in the city. The terrorists appeared to have been well-trained and took advantage of technology, such as Global Positioning System trackers. Local and state police proved to be poorly trained and equipped, and lacked central control to coordinate an effective response. This attack was the most recent in a long list of lethal terrorist incidents this year.

Among the major events:

  • On May 13, Jaipur experienced serial bomb blasts at crowded market areas and at Hindu temples. At least 60 people were killed, and more than 150 injured.
  • On June 29, Maoist insurgents attacked and killed 33 security forces in Malkangiri district in the eastern state of Orissa.
  • On July 7, Indian interests were attacked in Afghanistan when terrorists drove a vehicle-borne IED into the outer perimeter of the Indian Embassy in Kabul on July 7. Two Indian diplomats died, and a number of Afghan citizens were wounded.
  • On July 25, serial bombs were set off in Bangalore in both business and industrial areas. At least one individual died, while eight were injured.
  • On July 26, in Gujarat's capital, Ahmedabad, 21 devices exploded killing 54 and injuring at least 156. These explosions took place in market areas, on buses and other vehicles, and at the hospital to which the wounded from the first serial bomb blast were being treated.
  • On September 13, terrorists detonated serial bombs in New Delhi in a variety of market places and other crowded public areas. These attacks killed at least 20 individuals and wounded more than 80.
  • On October 30, insurgents detonated a series of nine bomb blasts throughout the northeastern state of Assam killing approximately 110 people.

None of the perpetrators of these attacks has yet been prosecuted. The Indian government assessed that South Asian Islamic extremist groups including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Harakat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami (Bangladesh) as well as indigenous groups were behind these events. The Government of India believed these attacks were aimed at creating a break-down in India-Pakistan relations, fostering Hindu-Muslim violence within India, and harming India's commercial centers to impede India's economic resurgence.

Eastern India has a long history of Maoist (left-wing extremism), and insurgent terrorist activity that has challenged state writ and control, governance structures, and the ruling political class. In 2008, there were 50 terrorist attacks in Eastern India that killed approximately 500 individuals. No American citizens were targeted or victims of terrorism in any of these incidents.

Insurgent groups, often fighting for recognition, political, and economic rights, or independence, were also active in the Northeast. Failure to properly accommodate the competing interests of diverse ethnic groups, low levels of development, and the success of previous insurgent movements in creating new Indian states were cited as explanatory factors for the appeal of insurgent movements. In 1990, the Government of India banned one of the most active insurgent groups, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). ULFA is alleged to have been involved in several terrorist attacks this year, including the bicycle bomb blast on September 18 in Chirang district, resulting in 20 injured Indian citizens, and the October 30 serial blasts mentioned above.

The Communist Party of India (Maoists), commonly referred to as Maoist/Naxalites, were active in the states of Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, the so-called "Red Corridor." Companies, Indian and foreign, operating in Maoist strongholds were sometimes targets for extortion.

State governments have expressed interest in augmenting their security forces by either creating or buttressing state-level assets, or hosting central level units to address the increased terrorist threat. Chattisgarh's government has invested in counterinsurgency training for police and paramilitary forces at its Jungle Warfare Training Center. Nevertheless, there is no clear unified command structure between state and federal forces in counterinsurgency efforts, which hampers their effectiveness.

Specifically in response to the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government has proposed a new agency, the National Investigative Agency, to create national-level capability to investigate and potentially prosecute such acts. Also in response to the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government amended some existing laws to strengthen the hands of security and law enforcement agencies in fighting terrorism. Two themes have framed the public debate on the new legislation: states' rights vs. federal power, and civil liberties vs. stronger law enforcement powers.

Illicit funding sources that may have been exploited to finance terrorist operations were being closely investigated. Indian authorities believe that the Mumbai terrorists used various funding sources including credit cards, hawala, charities, and wealthy donors. In addition to the Mumbai attacks, the rise in terrorist attacks and their coordinated nature throughout India suggested the terrorists were well-funded and financially organized.

Indian officials, particularly in West Bengal and Assam, were concerned about the porous India-Bangladesh border, of which only 2500 of the 3000 km land border has been fenced (total land and water border is 4100 km). India's inability to protect its porous maritime border has been under media scrutiny since it came to light that the perpetrators of the November 26 Mumbai attacks arrived by sea. In Tamil Nadu, coast guard and police officials, as well as security analysts, all acknowledged that the government was unable to monitor sufficiently the thousands of small commercial fishing vessels that ply the waters between India and Sri Lanka.

The Indian government has implemented an advance passenger information system to receive inbound passenger information from air carriers operating in India. The system, however, is not compatible with or able to share data with the U.S. and EU equivalent systems. In addition, the Government of India and air carriers have shown an increased interest in receiving fraudulent document training from the United States and other countries.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.