Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani Islamic organization that is part of global jihad, was responsible for the Mumbai terrorist attack (November 2008).

Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel on fire

Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel on fire

Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel on fire
One of the targets of the terrorist attack: Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel on fire

(Arco Datta/Reuters, November 29, India)


1. Lashkar-e-Taiba or Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) is a Pakistani global jihad organization, and one of the largest terrorist organizations operating in the Indian subcontinent. Created by Pakistan , it espouses radical Islamic ideology and cooperates with Al-Qaeda. Lashkar-e-Taiba perpetrated the multi-pronged attack in Mumbai ( November 26-28, 2008 ), killing more than 171 people and injuring some 300. Those killed include six Israelis/Jews who were staying at the Chabad House, one of the eleven targets of the attack. Also killed were some 30 foreign nationals. The "success” of the terrorist attack (in the organization’s view) and its massive international media coverage may, in our assessment, increase the motivation of Lashkar-e-Taiba and other global jihad organizations to perpetrate other showcase terrorist attacks worldwide against Western (mostly American) targets and even Israeli/Jewish targets (to achieve that, however, the organization will have to develop independent operative networks outside of the Indian subcontinent).

2. The correct translation of Lashkar-e-Taiba, as the organization is known in Urdu (the language spoken in Pakistan ), is "Army of Madinah”, named after the second holiest city in Islam after Mecca (see below). That terrorist organization was established some twenty years ago with Saudi funding and the assistance and sponsorship of the Pakistani Intelligence. The background for its establishment was the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan over the control of Kashmir , where Muslims are the majority. In many respects, Lashkar-e-Taiba has gradually become a global jihad organization with close operative relations with Al-Qaeda and with radical Islamic ideology. Dispatched to various places in the world, its operatives have even assisted global jihad in planning and perpetrating terrorist attacks against Western targets outside of India (even though India and the issue of Kashmir are still the main item on its agenda).

3. In the first years of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s existence, its terrorist activity focused on Indian targets (civilians and military personnel) in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (consult map below). Ever since 2001, following the September 11 terrorist attacks and as part of an ideology which seeks to turn all of India into an Islamic country, the organization operates across India ‘s entire territory. That change took place after the US included Lashkar-e-Taiba in the list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) and in the wake of the tightening cooperation between the US and India (and, later on, between the US and Pakistan ) as part of the international war on terrorism. At the same time, in those years the organization was involved in some terrorist attacks in Western countries as part of its operative cooperation with global jihad networks.

4. In the past seven years, Lashkar-e-Taiba was involved in a number of deadly terrorist attacks against Indian civilians, mainly in New Delhi and in Mumbai. The aim of those terrorist attacks was to destabilize India from the inside, to stir animosity between the Hindi majority and India ‘s significant Muslim minority, and to prevent any possible rapprochement between India and Pakistan through senseless killing of civilians. The wave of terrorism began with the terrorist attack on India’s Parliament in New Delhi (December 13, 2001), followed by terrorist attacks on transportation routes and crowded places, such as a train and a bus in Mumbai, movie theaters and markets in New Delhi, and a simultaneous terrorist attack on seven trains in Mumbai. The organization also perpetrated deadly terrorist attacks in other cities in India . The organization did not formally claim responsibility for those terrorist attacks, in which hundreds of Indian civilians were killed and thousands were injured, preferring instead to hide behind fictional organization names. However, detainees seized by the Indian security forces as well as intelligence information which the Indian authorities have (and some of which was published on the media) indicate that Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind those terrorist attacks, and that its base of operations is still in Pakistan.

5. The organization’s recent multi-pronged terrorist attack in Mumbai was combined, requiring careful planning, good intelligence, lengthy logistical and operative preparations, a great deal of daring, and a high level of performance. It was meant to kill as much Indian civilians as possible, to hit the Indian economy (Mumbai being India ‘s economic and financial center), and to destabilize India ‘s internal political structure. Among the targets were two hotels frequented by Western tourists (Taj Mahal and Oberoi). It was also the first time that an Israeli/Jewish target was chosen (Chabad House in Mumbai, which offers religious and social services to Israelis and Jews). The attack on those sites stems from the organization’s Islamic jihadist ideology, and it is also meant to increase the international media resonance of the terrorist attack. It appears that, as far as Lashkar-e-Taiba is concerned, the Mumbai attack was a great success, which might encourage it and other global jihad organizations to initiate deadly terrorist attacks on other Western and Israeli/Jewish targets in the Indian subcontinent, in other countries in South East Asia , and elsewhere in the world.

6. As with previous terrorist attacks, the Mumbai terrorist attack was also meant to stir tension between India and Pakistan , two nuclear powers which are themselves threatened by Al-Qaeda. Based on the interrogation of the only surviving terrorist (seized in Mumbai) and on intelligence information obtained during and after the Mumbai terrorist attack, the Indian government immediately pointed the finger at Pakistan, where the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist squads which operated in Mumbai (and in other terrorist attacks in India) trained and from where they came to India. Under the circumstances, it appears that the Mumbai terrorist attack may further harm already strained relations between the two countries and impede any cooperation against Al-Qaeda, the common enemy threatening the Indian and Pakistani regimes alike. 1

7. The Mumbai terrorist attack, as well as previous deadly terrorist attacks perpetrated by Lashkar-e-Taiba against India , once again bring up the issue of terrorist attacks launched from Pakistani territory. There is no question that LET and its front organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (established in 2002) have their military, political, and media infrastructures in Pakistan . Jamaat-ud-Dawa operates legally in Pakistan , although LET has been outlawed by Pakistan ‘s previous leader, Musharraf. Those and other global jihad networks operating in Pakistan (mainly Al-Qaeda and Taliban-Pakistan) pose a threat to the Pakistani regime, to the stability of the Indian subcontinent, and to the entire international community.

8. Following the Mumbai terrorist attack, Pakistan pledged to the Security Council that it would take action against Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa. In practice, however, it is doubtful whether President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistani regime has the ability (and maybe even interest) to take decisive, effective measures against those organizations and other global jihad networks. The problem is further compounded by the fact that parts of Pakistan are not effectively controlled by the central government. Within the specific context of Lashkar-e-Taiba, it appears that we have a situation in which the monster has turned on its maker: an Islamic terrorist organization established by the Pakistani Intelligence to advance Pakistan’s political goals vis-à-vis India (and with regard to the Kashmir conflict in particular) has embraced a global jihad-like modus operandi, cooperating with Al-Qaeda and becoming an organization which acts towards the advancement of radical Islamic agenda which does not necessarily match the policy of the present Pakistani regime. 2

Structure of the study

9. This paper includes the following chapters:

a. Historical background on the emergence of the Kashmir problem

b. The establishment and development of Lashkar-e-Taiba

c. The organization’s ideology

d. The organization’s structure, its weapons, and its training methods

e. The organization’s funding sources

f. Lashkar-e-Taiba’s reliance upon a criminal organization for assistance

g. The organization’s propaganda system

h. Lashkar-e-Taiba’s involvement in global terrorism

i. Analysis of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Lashkar-e-Taiba in India :

1. Terrorist attacks perpetrated in Kashmir in the 1990s

2. Shifting the focus of terrorist operations to India since 2001

3. The terrorist attack in Mumbai ( November 26-28, 2008 )

4. The modus operandi of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s terrorist attacks in India

j. Selected sources

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1 In the media campaign waged by Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden over the past year, he called upon Pakistan ‘s Muslims to topple the regime of the (then) president General Pervez Musharraf through holy war (jihad). See our Information Bulletin: " During the past year Osama Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda leader, waged an intensive media campaign after a long silence. Its objective was mainly to inspire global jihad operatives to increase terrorist activities worldwide, and to create internal pressure in the United States , Europe and Arab/Muslim regimes” ( September 21, 2008 ). However, Al-Qaeda remains hostile towards the Pakistani regime, seeing it as a collaborator with the US and the West, even under the new President Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto.

2 For a similar view, arguing that the Mumbai terrorist attack made the Pakistani supreme command realize that it helped create a "Frankenstein’s monster”, see: Prof. Anatol Lieven, "Why Britons get caught in the Pakistan web,” The Times, December 17, 2008.