Use of mobiles in the Mumbai attacks

Posted on December 3, 2008  /  2 Comments

It is always informative to engage in a retrospective assessment of the use of technology in a terrorist atrocity and see what we can do to make their activities more difficult (and prevent knee jerk reactions that only make the lives of law-abiding people more difficult). The first reports on the use of mobiles by suicide attackers of Mumbai are coming out:

Mr. Muzammil, who is the right-hand man to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakvhi, the operational commander of the group, talked by satellite phone to the attackers from Pakistan when the gunmen were in the Taj and Oberoi hotels, the Western official said.

The attackers also used the cellphones of people they killed to call back to Mr. Muzammil somewhere in Pakistan, the official said.

One use is clear: they killed people; took their mobiles and called the mastermind of LeT back in Pakistan. Nothing we can do about this, realistically.

The other is not as clear. So Muzammil uses a satphone in Pakistan. How does he talk to the cannon fodder? Did they carry satphones? If yes, why did they have to use the mobiles of the people they killed (saving money is not an issue when you are on a suicide mission)? If the raiders did not have satphones, did Muzammil call them through the Taj exchange (I am basing this question on the report that some of these murderers booked a room at the Taj and stayed for several days)?

Can someone shed light on these questions please?


  1. reportedly you need an identity card to purchase a sim card in Mumbai. If the attackers didn’t have any ground support for thier operation from Mumbai they have to rely on the mobiles of the victims (a roaming gsm from pakistan will expose thier connections) . Why didn’t they cary sat-phones…may be the outfit was not that sofisticated…..

  2. This is the first time I hear use of mobiles by Mumbai attackers.

    Recovery of five satellite phones was reported earlier. So I guess they used satellite phones as primary communication means. They could not be that stupid to use only mobiles. A mobile network can be brought down. More difficult to block satellite channels.

    So why they use mobiles? Dunno for sure. But guess only few are equipped with satellite phones. Others need some other mean, and why not use a freely available mobile? It might have been a bonus, not something planned.