In military parlance, a killing zone is the area in which the enemy is to be lured or forced to occupy so as to concentrate fire upon them, often through ambush. Substitute “civilians” for “enemy” in the foregoing definition, and you have the perfect description of the operational aspect of the terror acts recently unleashed by alleged jihadists in Mumbai, India. Of course, they did not have to “lure” their victims, they just had to choose their targets carefully. This was the horrible, shockingly simple beauty of their plan. Within a few square kilometers in the heart of a major urban center were ready-made killing zones, sure to deliver easy prey on a silver platter, almost. The operative phrase was, and is, for acts of this nature, to “concentrate fire”.
And concentrate fire they did. Anyone or anything that moved, breathed, twitched or blinked an eye was shot, with lethal effect.
The Mumbai attackers brought together elements of conventional terrorism and classic revolutionary urban warfare. They were ready to die, certainly, but they were also willing to face their hapless quarry square in the face. Instead of a to-whom-it-may-concern i.e.d. or car bomb, they were willing, even eager, to mow them down like so many pigeons (or turkeys, it having occurred, intentionally or not, on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend). In a grisly echo of Columbine, the shooters were young, cold-blooded, methodical and, by some eyewitness accounts, smiling as they went about their murderous task. They were enjoying their role in this real-life Bollywood shoot-out.
Just one example, as reported by the BBC, happened at the landmark Leopold Cafe, a favorite hangout of locals, expats and tourists since 1871. Three men walked into the cafe, drank beer, settled their bills and walked out. Then they fished out guns from their bags and began firing.
Was the beer not cold enough ? Waiters surly ? No, they just had a job to do.
As French terrorism specialist Roland Jacquard noted:
This didn’t involve suicide bombers and booby-trapped cars that we commonly see in Islamist terror attacks – ones which usually end with the explosion-deaths of the kamikazes carrying them out. This is essentially a small army sent into the heart of society with orders kill and keep killing as long as possible. And they’re technically capable of creating a lot of damage and death before they can be killed. So this is more like terrorism fused with insurgency and guerilla warfare.
This a chilling tactical shift which could have far-reaching consequences on how terrorism bares its ugly face in other parts of world. Think copy-cat groups wowed by the shock and fear caused by the Mumbai killers. Not to mention the world-wide media attention it generated. That’s the way to go, they could be musing now, just like in the movies ( recall the Die Hard series). Except that this time, the bad guys could have the upper hand.