To Ease Holiday Travel, Airports Try Family Lanes

Just in time for the busy Thanksgiving travel season, airports nationwide now have special security lanes designated for families. Officials from the Transportation Security Administration say the idea is to reduce stress both for families and for business travelers.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Joining us now is Ashley Tellis. He is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is an expert in international security and South Asia. He joins us from his home in Virginia. Mr. Tellis, we've just heard Shishir Joshi describe the situation there in Mumbai, and there are questions now about claims of responsibility. What do you know about this?

ASHLEY TELLIS: Well, there is a group called the Deccan Mujahideen that seems to have claimed responsibility. But I wouldn't pay too much attention to the claim itself because this is obviously a nom de plume of some, you know, most likely Muslim group within India that has conducted this attack. We don't know anything about this group. This is the first time they have been heard from.

NORRIS: If it's a nom de plume, who might they be representing?

TELLIS: Well, it is hard to tell. But in the last few years, Indian intelligence had identified, you know, a series of modules which are populated by young, somewhat resentful Muslims. These are Indian nationals who seem to have a beef with the Indian state and have been radicalized as a result of the larger (unintelligible) that seems to be taking place in the Muslim world. And Indian intelligence has, you know, identified and has made several representations to the government that such attacks are in fact possible and even likely.

NORRIS: With the use of guns, grenades, coordinated attacks at several points throughout the city, do you see a detectable pattern there that you might have seen in previous terrorist attacks throughout India?

TELLIS: Yes, this is in fact the most sophisticated version of what happened in Bombay in the mid-'90s. In the mid-'90s, there was a series of attacks that were synchronized and involved the use of explosives in different parts of the city. Now what appears to have happened in this time is the use of explosives in some instances, but supplemented by gun-wielding individuals who have gone after very specific targets with the aim of obviously, you know, creating mayhem on one hand, but also sending a political message on the other.

NORRIS: In the previous attack that you're referencing, in that case explosives were left in cars or in bicycles. Here you have a number of people that are storming this restaurant, these luxury hotels. That would suggest a different degree of coordination.

TELLIS: That is exactly right. And I think this is, you know, certainly far more sophisticated and represents a greater willingness to take risks. Because in the last incident, as you pointed out, it was essentially explosives left unattended with no clear, you know, responsibility. Whereas now there are individuals who are actually engaged in firefights with the security forces attempting to achieve their objectives against opposition. And this not only requires greater sophistication to carry out because some of these targets are, you know, targets with a sudden modicum of security. But it also represents, you know, a willingness to do real damage and to do so at some risk to oneself.

NORRIS: India's army is now making moves against the suspected attackers. How effective have India's security services been in trying to combat terrorism?

TELLIS: Actually, very poor. Despite, you know, the history of terrorism that has racked the country now for at least 20 years, the police services have simply not responded in a way that is required. The Intelligence gathering mechanisms in India are very poor and they are very fragmented. And there is a very conspicuous lack of coordination between various intelligence agencies. And it is really unfortunate that despite this history of terrorism, they haven't been able to do better.

NORRIS: Ashley Tellis is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was speaking to us from his home in Virginia. Mr. Tellis, thank you very much.

TELLIS: Thank you, Michele.

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