In November 2008, 10 gunmen launched a "commando-style" raid on hotels and cafes in Mumbai, India. The attack spanned three days, killing 174 people and wounding more than 300 others.
Contrary to the movies and books, an effective terrorist attacks does not require high-tech weapons of mass destruction. A well trained, small unit armed with rifles can inflict a high number of casualties. In the Mumbai attack, the terrorist came in on rubber rafts. They then fired on the crowd and moved, staying in contact via radio. Their tactics thwarted the police and allowed the terrorists to kill 174.
Now reports are coming that their could be a similar attack at the Ritz Carlton in London. London is more densely populated than Mumbai and even with Scotland Yard and the British SAS vigilant, an attack could swiftly kill many civilians before authorities could neutralize the attackers.
The United States presents an even better target. We have so many large cities with multiple targets it is almost impossible to protect all against a well coordinated attack. As we go into summer, there are countless street festivals and concerts with thousands of unprotect civilians milling around. A Mumbai type of attack would have devastating results.
While the press focuses on the uses suspects of Pakistan and Somalia, we need to be aware of lesser know groups. One of my students did an excellent presentation on the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) of Algeria. While very active in Algeria, this group has not been known to operate outside of Algeria. However, reports indicate at least one cell is here in the United States (albeit inactive). There are other groups that we have not heard of as well as domestic terrorist groups. This is the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and we should be alert to potential threats.