26/11 anniversary: There will always be a force to protect you, says Lt. Col (retd) Sandeep Sen

Updated: Nov 26, 2019, 08:25 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Lt. Col (retd) Sandeep Sen, who led the final siege at Nariman House, on Operation Black Tornado on the eleventh anniversary of 26/11

Lt. Col Sundeep Sen
Lt. Col Sundeep Sen

AS the city marks the eleventh anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks today, Lt. Colonel (retd) Sundeep Sen, who was the second-in-command combating terrorists at Nariman (Chabad) House, reflects back on the events of the fateful day. Sen who is an adviser and consultant for a Zee5 web series, The Siege: Chabbis Gyarah, spoke to mid-day on the phone. The eight-episode series spans a breadth of India, Israel and the USA.

Excerpts from the interview with Sen.

On accusations that India was very late to respond to the terror attack... The attack was so shocking that nobody in the government was prepared for it. The National Security Guard (NSG) commandos are prepared for such situations 24/7, 365 days, but they have to go by decisions and directions. Decision-makers took time to understand the scale and gravity of the attack. But if something similar were to happen today, there would be a prompt response.

Your role in the counter terror operation... I was with my unit in Haryana when I got a call for a deployment at Nariman (Chabad) House, along with my unit. I was leading the operation from the front. On the Nariman House siege, a Jewish community centre, was this an indication that the Palestinian vs Israeli battle had come to India... We are professionals and we are not too concerned about a specific ideology. We have to fight terrorists.

What did you first witness on reaching Nariman House... When he arrived, the police briefed us about the hostage situation. We heard some negotiations were underway with the Israeli embassy. However, the terrorists were not interested in negotiating; they were there to kill. We blasted our way inside the House and gunned them down. You had casualties during the operation, was that because of a tactical error or too much firepower... Our Havaldar G Singh was martyred during the operation. We accept that there will be casualties in counterterrorism operations. But it is never an error.

On the firepower and training of the terrorists... There is no doubt that the 10 militants who attacked Mumbai were highly trained and motivated. Every terrorist is brainwashed into his false cause and these were even more so. But the NSG, too, has highly motivated soldiers ready for any crisis. On talk that Israel agents were on the ground as the Nariman House siege unfolded... Not at all, this is just loose talk with no basis.

Mumbai's sense of security, was blown away... The city was shaken because the sheer audacity and scale of the attack seemed unbelievable. It was like the USA's 9/11, when the world couldn't believe that so many aircraft could be hijacked at once. The terrorists' motive is to get media attention and grab eyeballs.

Message to the country on the sombre 11th anniversary of 26/11...You, the masses, may not see the Special Forces on a daily basis. So know that every soldier is sweating day and night to shield you. There will always be a force to protect you. The love and affection shown to us by Mumbai then made our resolve and will to combat stronger.

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