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Terror and technology

Zafar Anjum | Nov. 28, 2008
Technology connecting lives in the November 26 terror attacks in Mumbai

According to sources quoted in India media, the terrorists had set up control centres in the two hotels after taking hostages. They were trying to communicate with Indian government and TV channels to negotiate.

Earlier in the day yesterday, a terrorist had reportedly called a TV channel to tell the government to free Mujahideens in India and to stop persecuting Indian minorities.

The Times of India reported India refused to negotiate with terrorists, even though almost 40 foreigners were held captive by jihadis in Mumbai. India seems to have joined countries such as the US, Israel, Russia and some from Europe in refusing to negotiate with terrorists on hostages, the newspaper states. 

While the commando operations were on, the security forces did two things: they engaged the terrorists in talk to buy time, and told all TV channels not to show a blow-by-blow account of the operation.

If they did not stop the TV crews from doing this, the terrorists could follow all the developments outside their locations watching the news on TV.

Writing in Outlook, Srinidhi Hande asks for banning live reporting in a hostage crisis. She writes: Showing such news live, will be immensely useful only to terrorists and their supporters outside. Consider this. The commandos only know that the militants are somewhere inside the hotel, but the militants know everything about the movements and positions of their pursuers through TV. Like: Who is on their trail (army/ NSG/ local police, etc), what is their ETA (estimated time of arrival), which tells them, how much time they have before a gun battle would begin), where they are right now, at the main entrance/ just entered their floor, wow is the world responding? Is there pressure mounting on the government to succumb to the demands of terrorists to get the hostages freed (so that they can act tough during negotiation)? How many of their friends are alive or dead (so that they can assess their strength)…

Sabinas story

Amid all this news came the news of Sabinas disappearancethe only person I knew who got embroiled in this unfortunate situation. Sabina Sehgal Saikia is the Times of India's consulting editor and food critic. I had met her when she was the editor of Delhi Times. She was at the Taj Mahal Hotel when the terrorists struck the place.

The TOI reports that a constant stream of SMSes was exchanged between her and well-wishers, and they got darker by the minute. "So far so good," read one. "I'm shaking," said another. "Desperate firing outside, my window panes are shattered," she continued. Her last SMS was to her husband and the paper also reported that a hotel employee she was in touch with received a frightening text message from Sabina saying: "They are in my bathroom." A search is still on for her.


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