Friday, December 05, 2008

Mumbai Police Faced Militants using World War I Era .303 Enfield Rifles While Terrorists Had Full Auto AK-47's Not Heckler & Koch MP5s As Some Report

The TERRORIST gunmen spraying automatic fire while two constables cower behind pillars, one armed with a .303 rifle similar to the Lee-Enfield weapons used by British troops in the First World War.
Police faced militants using World War I-era weapons, Jeremy Page, New Delhi December 04, 2008 Article from: The Australian. INDIAN police who bore the brunt of last week's attacks on Mumbai had defective bulletproof vests, World War I-era firearms and insufficient weapons training, police sources said.
Many wore plastic helmets (SEE GUY ABOVE WITH BLUE LID) and body protectors designed for sticks and stones, rather than bullets, as they fought highly trained militants armed with full auto AK47 rifles, pistols, grenades and explosives.

The contrast between them was vividly illustrated yesterday by CCTV footage of two militants attacking Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai's main railway station, last Wednesday. It shows the gunmen spraying automatic fire while two constables cower behind pillars, one armed with a .303 rifle similar to the Lee-Enfield weapons used by British troops in World War I.

Similar scenes were played out at other targets in the first seven hours of the attacks, in which 16 policemen died, including three of India's top officers. "That's 16 too many," said Maxwell Pereira, a former joint commissioner of Delhi police. "These casualties could have been prevented if they'd been properly equipped."

The abysmal state of police equipment helps to explain how 10 gunmen paralysed India's financial capital, a metropolis of 18million people, for more than 60 hours. It also illustrates how ill-prepared India's 2.2 million-strong police force is to tackle another such attack. "We'd react exactly the same way tomorrow," said Ajay Sahni, of the Institute for Conflict Management.

He described India as one of the "least policed" places in the world, with 126 officers per 100,000 people, compared with 225 to 550 per 100,000 in most Western countries. Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, has one of India's better police forces, but even it is woefully ill-equipped because of a centralised and corrupt procurement system.

YP Singh, who retired after 20 years in the Maharashtra police in 2005, said he knew of two batches of body armour that had failed tests in 2001 and 2004.
"They couldn't take rounds from AK47s or AK56s," he said. "The bullets pierced the jackets."

He believed the Maharashtra police purchased the defective vests and issued them to officers last week. On Wednesday, television stations showed Hemant Karkare, the head of the Anti-Terrorist Squad, donning a bulletproof vest and a battered tin helmet as he arrived at the scene in Mumbai. He was shot in the chest three times soon afterwards and died.

Two other senior officers who were travelling in the same car as Mr Karkare and were also wearing body armour were shot dead at the same time. "If they'd been properly equipped they might have only been injured," Mr Singh said. "Their vital organs would have been protected."

Other officers were issued only 5mm-thick plastic body protectors designed for riot control. That is because India has only 100,000 bulletproof vests for police and paramilitary forces, according to Anurag Gupta, the managing director of MKU, which supplies the vests to the Government.

"The helmets used last week were World War II-era, not designed for combat," he said. Most of the police involved were carrying .303s or self-loading rifles like those adopted by the British army in the 1950s. Some officers said they had inadequate weapons training because of a shortage of ammunition and shooting ranges. In theory, all officers shoot 50 rounds a year in training. In practice, senior officers get their full quota with small arms.

"The rest is all bunkum," Mr Pereira said. "It's target practice with a .303 rifle. I wouldn't call it suitable knowledge of weapons and their uses in urban policing." All those interviewed said the issue was not money: the Government allocated pound stg. 154 million ($358million) for modernising the police in 2007-08 alone.

The problem, they said, lay with the Home Ministry's procurement system, which is dominated by corrupt bureaucrats and politicians rather than technical experts. "It's a cartel," Mr Singh said. "The Government is spending millions, but the police isn't getting the equipment it needs."

Bill Warner
Private Investigator