Commentary: Were Mumbai attacks inspired by al Qaeda?
LONDON, England (CNN) -- The Indian media have described the Mumbai terrorist siege as India's 9/11.
The targets for the attacks, many of them symbols of Mumbai's growing power and wealth, were not randomly selected and were intended to send a direct message to India, Israel and the West.
Indeed, the Mumbai attacks had all the hallmarks of a powerful transnational terrorist group inspired by the ideology of al Qaeda.
Mumbai is no stranger to terrorism.
On March 12, 1993, a series of 15 bombs exploded across several districts of India's financial capital, killing 257. On July 11, 2006, a coordinated bombing spree on the city's transportation system killed 209 people.
Uniquely disturbing about the recent Mumbai attacks, in addition to killing locals, is the deliberate targeting of restaurants and hotels used by Westerners and a Jewish cultural center.
Mumbai is to India as New York is to the United States or London to the United Kingdom. The city is driving India's economic boom.
It is the commercial and entertainment capital of the country, where the "Bollywood" film industry is based. It is the heartbeat of India. What happens there vibrates throughout the nation.
Three factors may help explain the timing of the attacks.
First, they occurred on the eve of America's Thanksgiving, as hotels in Mumbai were preparing for the event by putting on functions for the Americans living, working and on vacation in Mumbai.
Secondly, a major international cricket tournament, the Twenty20 Champions League, was going to take place the following week. Some of the matches were going to be played in Mumbai, but the attacks resulted in the tournament being postponed.
Thirdly, important state elections are taking place in parts of the country. They are being closely contested between the major political parties, and security was a key election issue. The events in Mumbai have left the nation divided as to how to respond.
In fact, in the past 12 months, India has endured more terrorist attacks in more parts of the country than in any previous recorded period. Cities such as Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and the capital, New Delhi, have been hit. However, those attacks involved rudimentary timed-explosives left in public places.
The latest events are different in terms of method and scale, with cells of well-armed men involved in synchronized assaults.
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For an "Interesting" View, see
Al-Qaeda 'hijack' led to Mumbai attack - Asia Times
Commentary: How U.S. should respond to Mumbai attacks - Peter Bergen, CNN
A journey into the Lashkar - The Hindu
The Mumbai Tragedy: Beware of Innuendo Concerning Pakistan - Washington Times