Squads of armed gunmen stormed luxury hotels, restaurants, hospitals and a train station in coordinated attacks across the Indian city of Mumbai Wednesday night, killing at least 88 people, injuring over 240 others, and reportedly taking hostage Westerners. At least 10 sites have been attacked so far, and the city remains in a state of chaos.
The attackers specifically targeted Britons and Americans, according to witnesses.
I find the violence especially surreal given the fact that I have been engaged in some research on the history of western India for some weeks now. After a few hours of work, I put aside my readings on conflict and trade in eighteenth century India only to find myself jarred by the eruption of twenty-first century terrorist violence in Mumbai, the financial and entertainment capital of India.
As of this writing a little-known group named the Deccan Mujahideen is claiming responsibility for the deadly attacks. Of course, this name could simply be a ruse to throw off security and police investigations, but whoever is behind the attacks certainly possesses a high degree of planning.
In addition, the deliberate targeting of Westerners suggests that the terrorists might be sending a message to the West and India about the costs of cooperation, especially in light of recent nuclear agreements between the United States and India. I am also tempted to link the attacks to the ongoing disputes over the region of Kashmir, though there has yet to be a release of the statement of responsibility from the attackers.
So we watch in shock as the death toll and injury numbers rise, and scratch our heads at the latest violence inflicted on innocent civilians in order to advance some group's radical political goals.