Skanderbeg and I have been having a brief discussion in RedHot and because the question he asked was so interesting, I thought I'd make it into a diary for further commentary.
Here are the links:
Some additional information has come in. Over the past few days there have been conflicting reports about the police presence at Victoria Terminus. The Beeb reported on Thursday that it took about half an hour for the police to arrive (??), which later accounts refute -- including the one from the now-famous photographer D'Souza who snapped the picture of one gunman in the station, now the sole survivor of his cadre. It has been reported that he survived by pretending he was dead until it was noticed in the ambulance that he was still breathing.
The police arrived half an hour after it was all over and the men had vanished into a balmy Mumbai evening.
"The system is loose, the security is hollow. They killed as they wished, and there were no policemen around," Mr Mishra says.
This directly contradicts D'Souza as well as the latest available from the AP, which states:
In the first wave of the attacks, two young gunmen armed with assault rifles blithely ignored more than 60 police officers patrolling the city's main train station and sprayed bullets into the crowd.
Bapu Thombre, assistant commissioner with the Mumbai railway police, said the police were armed mainly with batons or World War I-era rifles and spread out across the station.
Initially the Beeb had it that the police simply weren't there until after all the killing had been done. Now the Assistant Commissioner with the Mumbai railway police says that 60-odd police officers were there all along, but they were unprepared and outgunned, even though they supposedly had rifles. D'Souza says they just ran and hid, despite vastly outnumbering the gunmen and being...."armed"....and even though people begged them to use their weapons.
It now looks like they did that because they were armed with sticks and rifles like the one your grandpa has laying around upstairs in the attic; rifles that haven't been fired in almost 100 years, and never will be again. Nobody has definitively answered the question of whether any of the station police even had bullets for those antiquated museum pieces, or knew how to fire them if they had to.
I think Mr. Mishra is probably the most reliable source on this story, but I think he's holding back and not telling people just how pathetic the real security situation was at Victoria Terminus. Evidently the terrorists knew just how pathetic it was, though.
More to come as this develops. But it's looking more and more like the Mumbai police, numbering as many as 60 in the station, simply cowered in the face of two armed gunmen because they were essentially unarmed. I'm beginning to get the sense that the security in Mumbai resembles a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, with token "police" sauntering around in a gritty train station armed with antiques dating back to the Opium Wars...