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'26/11 a turning point in terrorist tactics'

April 16, 2009 08:48 IST

A top counter-terrorism official of the Obama Administration has said the Mumbai attack shows how a group of terrorists with small weapons like AK-47 can be used as a lethal combination, which can cause irreversible damage to geo-political strategic relationship.

"The events of Mumbai reminded us that old-school terrorist tactics of AK-47 can be extremely valuable to the terrorist organisations," Michael E Leiter, Director of the US National Counterterrorism Centre, said at the Aspen Institute.

'We saw that again with the attack on the police facility in Lahore, and they are extremely easy to perpetrate in many ways,' Leiter said in his address last week, transcript of which was made available on Wednesday.

Implying that Mumbai could be considered as a turning point in such terrorist tactics, Leiter said: 'We have seen, since the attacks in Mumbai, a desire and willingness to change some of these tactics, and we are concerned about the change of these tactics, both in the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Indian region, but also beyond that, and the potential for that to manifest itself in the United States or elsewhere.'

After Mumbai attack, top US officials have been expressing their apprehension over a similar terrorist attack in larger American cities like New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

'The other thing I would highlight that I think is important for us to remember is terrorism is not just about the direct innocent victims that are killed or injured in a terrorist attack. Terrorism can also be -- and we must also think about the repercussions terrorism has on broader geopolitical issues, and for that I would point again to Mumbai and the threat of extremists in India and the ability for small numbers of extremists and terrorists to cause great instability within larger geopolitical relationships,' he said.

Referring to the threat of Al Qaeda and the Taliban coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said: 'The threat and the desire of these militant groups that have aligned themselves to a greater or lesser extent with Al Qaeda, to the stability of Pakistan and the region are very significant.'

Responding to a question, Leiter acknowledged that the drone attacks inside Pakistan are having some negative repercussions. 'I will be one of the first to admit that there are -- there have been some negative repercussions of targeted efforts against Al Qaeda senior leadership in Pakistan. It's just not an absolute good. But in this work we have to consider both the short term and the long term,' he said.

On the willingness of Pakistan to co-operate with the US in its fight against terrorism, he said: 'I don't think it's any surprise to anyone that there are many times that the US government wished the Pakistan government intelligence and military services had greater willingness and capability to do some of the things that need to be done.'

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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